Is food simply fuel to get you through your work day?

For those of us battling to stay on top of emails, meetings, and deadlines is food simply fuel?

The reality is that the food we eat affects us more than we realise. Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at breakfast or lunch can completely derail your work day.

Just about everything we eat and drink is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused. This is why it is hard to concentrate on an empty stomach.

However, not all foods are processed by our bodies at the same rate. Some foods, like pasta, bread and cereal release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. Others, like high fat meals (think fast food) provide more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us groggy. We cannot afford that during our work day!!

Making smart decisions about our diet and planning our day will result in a more productive work output.

So, what can we do?

Start the day with a healthy breakfast. A healthy breakfast refuels your body and helps you function at your best. Research shows that eating a healthy breakfast improves attention, concentration, academic achievement and physical energy.

Make your eating decisions before you get hungry: Spikes and drops in blood sugar are not good for productivity. Smaller, more frequent meals maintain your glucose at a more consistent level. Plan and pre-prepare some healthy snacks for mid-morning and mid-afternoon so you won’t be tempted by the vending machine or the sweets your colleague brought back from holidays.

Plan your lunch in advance: Studies show we’re a lot better at resisting salt, calories, and fat in the future than we are in the present. If you don’t have a working lunch, bring in some left-over dinner from the night before, or select healthy options in your local restaurant, café or deli. Include vegetables if possible. Research indicates that eating vegetables throughout the day isn’t simply good for the body—it’s also beneficial for the mind.

Making intelligent decisions about food is essential for workplace performance. Fuel your body with healthy food and it will thank you for it. Plan your food intake for the day as you plan your work day – this will help you resist temptation and make healthy eating the easiest possible option.