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Take a minute to stop and think: how often did you eat out this week? If the answer is more than once or twice, think about what those meals consisted of. Were they mostly made up of junk food? If so, then you’re probably not giving your body the fuel you need to be productive and focused in the office. Some foods make you feel sluggish, sleepy and put you at risk for a number of health diseases, while others can make you jittery and unfocused. You might have trouble thinking clearly, and be more irritable and stressed. Junk food is no fuel for getting work done!
The Productivity Consequences of a Poor Diet
A study by Brigham Young University showed just how damaging a poor diet can be to your productivity, particularly for teachers who must be alert and attentive to a wide range of student needs. Researchers found that workers who ate a poor diet were a whopping 66% more likely to report a productivity loss! Additionally, eating out a lot during the week can lead to weight gain, which the CDC links with diabetes, heart disease, as well as with decreased productivity and higher costs in the workplace. Intervening in your health by improving your diet can both enhance your ability to work and your health overall.
Poor Choices: Why They Happen
The biggest problem with poor choices is that we tend to put off decision-making until we’re already hungry. Then, we usually make decisions based on cravings—sweets, fried foods, and “healthy options” loaded with sodium. Sometimes, these decisions are fueled by convenience—the fast food place that’s right outside, vs. the healthier Greek joint 10 minutes away. Unfortunately, these time savings often result in lower productivity throughout the course of the day. The solution to this is to think ahead and make good decisions in advance, which can include weekly meal prep. To help, many individuals leverage technology and mobile apps to manage everything from grocery lists to setting reminders. If you’re already tech savvy, or looking to improve your skills, be sure to see if you can leverage technology to prevent future poor choices!
Weekly Meal Prep
Though it’s not an absolute rule, most people eat more healthfully when they cook at home. It’s harder to find healthy options out and about, and the portions are often oversized. Bringing a lunch can help enhance your productivity by providing your body with what it needs—not with what your brain wants.
Big-batch cooking has gotten a lot of press lately. Lots of office workers are too tired at the end of the day to feel like preparing lunch for the next day, which leads to a lot more meals out. That’s money spent, and often, health compromised. By cooking once a week (usually on a Sunday), many people are taking control of their lunches and ensuring they’re eating something healthy every day at lunch. It’s more cost effective, saves time, is healthier, and saves on food waste. Since you’ll be eating wholesome meals, you’ll probably feel more focused any productive throughout the day using the batch method.
Examples of Big Batch Cooking
The great thing about big batch cooking is that it doesn’t have to be boring! You can switch things up from week to week to keep you looking forward to lunch. You can also make extra portions of dinner meals to fill out your roster of lunches for the week. Set aside dedicated time to ensure you’ve got all your meals for the week before Monday rolls around.
Mason jar salads (dressing on the bottom, greens on top) are popular, especially when protein like chicken or tofu is part of the mix. Grain bowls, hearty soups, and stir-fries are also great options. As long as you give yourself a mix of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, you can’t really go wrong. Getting a set of bento-style containers can make prep easier, since you can load up several containers for the week with a controlled portion and wash them all as you go. Don’t forget snacks you won’t regret later in the day!
Don’t Forget Breakfast
In batch cooking discussions, everyone focuses on lunch, but what about breakfast? If you don’t have time to eat a healthy breakfast at home, whip up something that can be taken on the go, like overnight oatmeal or berries with Greek yogurt. Coffee won’t cut it when you’re trying to gain control of your morning productivity!
Leave Some Meals Out
Don’t want to give up your Chipotle bowl? Don’t! While it’s true that your productivity will suffer if you eat out all the time, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while. Either schedule your meals out around activities with coworkers or pick one day of the week you’ll allow yourself to indulge. This will help keep you from feeling deprived.
Feel Better, Work Better
The health benefits of bringing your lunch to work can be immense, but remember: it’s up to you to make good choices when you do your weekly batch cooking. Emphasize fruits and vegetables (they actually make you happier, more engaged, and more creative!), and be sure to include some healthy snacks in your bag. Your boss will be impressed by your newfound productivity, and you’ll likely start feeling better and more motivated every day!
This article originally appeared on Evan Carmichael
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