Everyone knows they’re supposed to eat well and stay healthy. And as a generality, we understand how our bodies work and how to take care of them. But we often understand in a cryptic and ambiguous way – similar to how we understand the way our car works. We put gas in it, we avoid crashing and it generally tends to work pretty well. But this peripheral understanding can ultimately lead to inadvertently neglecting our health and its benefits.
But here’s the thing: you need to understand these things and put them into action – especially as a business leader.
Why? Because eating healthy can actually make you a better manager. And here’s the kicker: it can be done easily. Here’s how.
Healthy Eating Improves Your Mood and Patience
There are few things worse than a manager in a bad mood. It makes it challenging for employees to feel confident and empowered, and it creates a ripple effect of negativity throughout the office. Healthy eating is scientifically linked to improved moods and better attitudes. It also offers our bodies and minds a boost of much-needed energy. That’s because our stomachs, with their trillions of bacterial cells passing signals to our brain, house about 90% of our receptor sites for serotonin – the chemical that makes us feel confident, happy and motivated.
Being Well-Nourished Stimulates Clarity of Mind
As a leader, your days are full of decisions ranging in size from minuscule to massive. And on top of that, you’ve probably got a whole lot to juggle at any one time. That means it’s important to have a clear mind and a sharp memory. The average brain weighs about three pounds – but it takes up nearly 20% of your daily calorie intake. That’s why it’s harder to think straight when you’re hungry. Eating good food – and enough food – is imperative to a successful day as a leader.
People Respect Leaders Who Project a Strong and Healthy Image
By nature, people look to leaders to be strong and steadfast. While this is in no way, shape or form meant to support or perpetuate negative stereotypes, research has shown that physical health and strength have an impact on employees’ perception of leadership. While physical attributes in no way define the success of a leader, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can ultimately improve the way they are perceived.
It’s hard to make smart choices when we’re uninformed, and healthy eating can seem complicated. But a basic knowledge of the science behind it can go a long way.
Here’s a quick crash course.
Not All Cholesterol is Bad
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol isn’t all bad. Despite the stigma, cholesterol is key in helping neurons form connections in your brain. The key is getting cholesterol from healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids from fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Good Fat is Your Friend
Similar to cholesterol, there’s a stigma around fat. But as opposed to trans and saturated fats which make you feel sluggish, good fats – including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats – are integral in proper bodily function. They can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Good fats can be found in things like avocado, eggs and olive oil.
Protein Means Energy
A lack of protein can cause fatigue. That’s because protein-based foods provide the body with fuel to repair and build tissues. Protein also takes longer to break down than carbohydrates which means it gives a longer-lasting energy kick.
Sugar is Only a Quick Fix
Everyone knows what a sugar rush is. The problem is that high-sugar, high-fat foods are easier to access and carry to work so we often reach for them first for a quick boost of energy. But the problem is that, while high-sugar foods and drinks offer a quick energy rush, they are followed by a massive crash.
Now that we know the facts, we can apply them to real life. Here are 9 easy and effective tips to help you eat healthy at work.
1. Start the Day with a Great Breakfast
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day for good reason. It helps your body move out of its sleep-friendly, energy-conserving state, and into its wakeful, higher-metabolism daytime state. Even a protein shake, a smoothie or a few pieces of fruit are better than nothing.
2. Drink Lots of Water
Proper hydration helps transport energy-providing nutrients throughout the body. Dehydration also makes your blood thicken, in turn forcing your heart to pump harder and making you feel more drained.
3. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
Small, frequent meals are beneficial in keeping your blood sugar levels consistent, so you have maintained energy. They also keep your metabolism in constant motion. Eating infrequently makes you more likely to binge eat causing blood sugar spikes, creating inconsistent energy and productivity.
4. Assign Two Days per Week to Meal Prep
Healthy eating is easier when you don’t have to think about it. Set aside two days per week to meal prep to ensure you’ve got good, healthy grab-and-go options. Things like salad-in-a-jar are a quick, easy and consolidated way to eat well.
5. Make Healthy Eating Convenient
The easiest way to stimulate healthy eating is to make it as convenient as possible. Keep healthy snacks at your desk to help you avoid grabbing for something less wholesome – think fruit, veggies, protein bars, almonds, and hummus.
6. Don’t Neglect Green Foods
Green foods are a great source of phytonutrients, which have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Things like steamed broccoli and green beans are an easy – and delicious! – way to get your fill.
7. Minimize Sugar
Now that we understand how sugar can give you a big rush followed by a bigger crash, consider minimizing your sugar intake. This doesn’t have to be drastic. It can be as simple as swapping out sugar in your coffee and opting for a sweeter option, like almond milk, instead.
8. Moderation is Key
One of the biggest killers of healthy eating is thinking you need to go extreme. Moderation is the key to success. Don’t cut out junk food. Give yourself some indulgences mixed with some good stuff. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be all or nothing.
9. Try to Avoid Eating at Your Desk. Lunch Meetings Are Good!
It’s estimated that 40% of employees eat at their desk, but it’s not always a great idea! Getting up from your desk to eat in a common area means you’re more likely to socialize and build relationships with colleagues. And if you have to work during lunch, consider booking al lunch meeting to ensure you get a full meal.
Healthy eating seems like a massive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. And it may just make you even better at your job.