By Emily Craft
You’re up early. There’s a lot to do today: an early shift, maybe a double. Or that big presentation you’ve been working on for a month. Chores to do after work. Kids to pick up and feed. It’s going to be a productive day, because it has to be.
As you make a to-do list and get ready for the day, are you thinking about what to eat? Did you know you can make smart choices throughout the day that’ll make these long days a whole lot easier? Here are five things you can do now:
Start your day right
Your body needs carbs for energy, and fat and protein keep your stomach from growling through morning meetings. Eggs are a great morning protein source. Make some breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs ahead of time and freeze them. On mornings like these, breakfast burritos — with carbs, fat, and protein — will hold you down. If you’re not into eggs, try a PB & J with a piece of fruit.
Choose brain-boosting snacks
Cherries and berries contain anthocyanins, which give fruits some of their color. They’re known for their impact on memory and cognitive health and they are powerful antioxidants. Bake them into bread or homemade granola bars for easy snacks that’ll help shorten your longest days. Walnuts are a great choice, too. They’ve been linked to better brain function, including faster processing speed and more mental flexibility. In other words, they prime you for productivity. Mix walnuts with dried fruit for a trail-mix snack. And cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower have been associated with improved memory.
Schedule time to eat
If you think you’ll save time and get more done without a break to eat, you could be setting yourself up to fail. Humans are just less productive when hungry — studies have confirmed it. This is linked in part to low blood sugar, so keep snacks that contain high-fiber carbohydrates on hand. Good choices include fruit, whole-grain mini bagels, or whole grain crackers to pair with a protein such as Greek yogurt or cheese. These filling mini meals can be the key to meeting deadlines and getting through those midafternoon slumps.
Time coffee wisely
It’s natural to reach for a cup of coffee for that morning start. About two-thirds of Americans do. You might also use it (or an energy drink, or another source of caffeine) to keep you up on a late night. But be careful with it. Coffee can interfere with your sleep cycle, and a bad night of sleep hurts your focus and alertness the next day. As your day goes on, switch to decaf. Even better, switch to water, because that tired feeling could just be regular dehydration.
Skip some (but not all) sweets
While midafternoon sugar bombs (think doughnut holes) can cause a steep blood sugar rise followed by a crash, some sweets can help increase productivity and get the blood flowing. Dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao or more can soothe anxiety and act as a mood-booster thanks to polyphenols, a group of antioxidants found in cocoa beans. Just be sure you’re choosing true dark chocolate and limiting portions to one or two squares.
Emily Craft, MS, RDN, CSP, LDN is a nutritionist for Giant Food. She offers classes and nutrition store tours in local Giant stores.