Our food choices influence how we think, feel, and perform throughout the day. Understanding what and when we eat to maintain our energy levels at work is crucial. Most of us are unaware of the suitable types of food to consume and the optimal times to consume them to best support brain function and sustain productivity throughout the day. What actions can we take to improve our dietary habits, and how can we educate our workplaces to promote a culture of healthy eating habits?

How to eat smart – when and what?

Don’t forget to drink water!

Hydration is vital to wellbeing- the body thrives off water! Aim for 1.5 – 2 litres daily.
It is important to drink a full glass of water when waking and rehydrate after sleep for healthy joints to ease into movement. Flavour a litre of water with a handful of berries and/or a few slices of cucumber or water and sip on the go!

Eat five (or more) vegetables and fruits a day.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that we eat a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables every day—roughly five portions. For optimum health, five portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit a day are ideal. This is a nutrient-packed way to fill your plate that is generally satisfying, as most fruits and vegetables are high in fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants. The more diversity you eat each day/week, the more beneficial it is for your overall health.

Plan and prepare meals that are delightful, delicious & diverse!

Food is something to savour and enjoy. It can delight all our senses; it looks beautiful, smells heavenly, tastes delicious, and its textures feel and even sound satisfying. Enjoy foods from around the world, such as kimchi (a Korean probiotic that supports gut health), Miso (a Japanese staple with proven immunoprotective benefits), Caribbean Sea Moss (an iron-rich ‘seaweed’ that can support energy levels) or try adding Turmeric to your eggs and other dishes (a potent anti-inflammatory traditionally used in South East Asian cooking).

Reduce Caffeine

Be mindful of your caffeine intake (in drinks like black tea or coffee), as too much will stop you from getting adequate rest. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands, which are responsible for creating hormones in the body, making energy levels fluctuate. Limit your caffeine intake to before 1 pm to minimise sleep problems, as it takes about 8 hours to metabolise. Instead, favour green tea and other herbal teas and try replacing coffee with cacao, a tasty energy booster due to its high content of Theobromine. This naturally occurring stimulant dilates blood vessels (instead of constricting them) to increase blood flow.

Eat your meals in a 12-hour window

A review of research studies by the National Institute of Ageing (NIA) suggests that eating within a 12-hour window (usually during the day) is optimal. This aligns with your circadian rhythm, allowing your digestive system to work effectively ‘to rest & digest’ during your 12-hour fasting window (usually overnight while you sleep). For example, if your last meal ends at 8 pm, your next meal does not begin until 8 am. If you eat a late evening snack at 10 pm, you don’t break your fast until 10 am. This method of 12-hour intermittent fasting is flexible and particularly beneficial for hormonal and metabolism balances, helping to sustain energy during the day and supporting better sleep patterns.

Smart and Simple Food Shopping List

When food shopping, stock up on:

  • Fresh fruits and veggies – keep it diverse and colourful; eat the rainbow
  • Starchy veggies – white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash
  • Frozen berries and spinach
  • Protein sources – chicken, eggs, fish, and tofu
  • Fibre-rich complex carbs – canned beans and whole grains (oats, rice, quinoa, etc)
  • Fat sources – avocados, olive oil, and full-fat yoghurt
  • Snack ingredients – nuts, seeds, nut butter, hummus, oat cakes, olives

Smart and simple meal ideas

Breakfast: spinach and egg scramble with avocado or oats topped with seeds and berries
Lunch: a sweet potato stuffed with beans and tuna/marinated seitan strips
Dinner: roasted chicken or baked tofu with sautéed broccoli and brown rice.

Boosting energy with food

Vital_Naturopathy Dorin Varza for Workspa Nutrition workshops

Balancing blood/sugar levels in the body is the key to sustaining energy throughout the day. Imbalanced blood sugar is often the cause of an afternoon slump, causing cravings and low mood alongside tiredness. When we eat a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack, the glucose (sugar) is quickly absorbed into our bloodstream, creating a burst of energy followed by a crash.

It is important to remember we need glucose. It is our bodies preferred source of ‘fuel’, but we all consume too many simple carbs & refined sugar, so try taking it out where you can to help reduce energy slumps and maintain more stable blood sugar levels, reducing symptoms associated with the blood/sugar peaks and troughs.

Excess sugar is hidden in ultra-processed foods. The main sources are biscuits, cakes, chocolate and sweets, energy bars, jams/preserves, concentrated fruit, and fizzy drinks. The British Nutrition Foundation confirms that most people are unaware of how much sugar they are consuming this way. The recommendation is to start reading labels to familiarise ourselves with some of these ‘hidden sugars’.

We get sustainable energy from balancing our meals (including snacks) by ensuring we eat more complex (unrefined) carbs accompanied by fibre, healthy fats, a source of protein and some fruit and veg.

Ramp up your energy levels by adding some of these delicious foods to your plate every day:

  • Bananas, apples, and strawberries are rich in complex carbohydrates, natural sugars, and vitamin B6. B vitamins are key for our nervous system; they are essential for processing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to create energy. 
  • Nuts and seeds –  rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids and high in both fibre and protein, which are key for slower digestion and, crucially, a slower release of energy– snack on a palm full or sprinkle on porridge, yogurt, salads, and smoothies.
  • Raisins – Portable and easy to eat, you can take raisins everywhere for on-the-go energy.
  • Oranges are one of the best foods for energy. Their natural sugars give you an energy boost without the skyrocketing blood sugar levels that come with other simple sugars. They are also high in vitamin C, which is vital for energy production.
  • Avocado—‘Half an avocado a day keeps the nutritionist away!’ High in fibre and healthy unsaturated fats and calories, avocados digest at a steady pace, slowly releasing glucose into the blood and providing steady energy.
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, are good sources of protein, essential fatty acids, and B vitamins.
  • Eggs – a complete source of protein & high in B vitamins that are key for our nervous system; they are essential for processing carbohydrates, fats and proteins to create energy. 
  • Sweet potatoes are loaded with complex carbs, providing a steady supply of energy. They also contain manganese, which helps break down nutrients to provide the body with energy.

Eating to boost brain function

The brain works tirelessly daily to process and analyse information, help with decision-making and problem-solving, regulate emotions and bodily functions, and control movement.  Diet directly impacts brain health, and the food we eat can significantly affect memory, learning, behaviour and mood.

A diet high in refined sugar, unhealthy fats, and junk food causes inflammation in the brain and disruptions to the blood-brain barrier.

The brain thrives on omega-3 fatty acids. A nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is key to optimal brain health and to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herrings are particularly high in omega-3, as are nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia, flax, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds. Combine with other brain-boosting foods such as broccoli, blueberries, beans, and pulses to keep your brain in tip-top condition.

Workspa organises a series of Bodyhealth services including Nutrition Workshops. If you wish to learn more and think to treat your employees get in touch with our team and we will tailor our service to your business needs.