If you have a desk job, I’m sure by now you’ve heard the mantra, “sitting is the new smoking.”
And, if you’re like most working Americans, you’re at that job for far more hours than you’re playing sports, chasing after your kids or otherwise moving. That’s why today, more than ever, it’s important to make the best of how you spend those working hours.
While you can find ways to incorporate movement at work – try taking frequent walks to the bathroom or water cooler, stretching occasionally, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking to and from work and home or the train or bus stop – it’s not always entirely possible to stay active on the job.
One thing you do have control over? What you put in your mouth. Food fuels your brain as well as your body, so what’s on your plate can affect your productivity. Here are eight foods (some of them deceptively healthy choices!) that can derail your on-the-job performance and focus:
Your morning cup o’ joe can wake you up and get you ready for your day, but for some, a cup of coffee can mean multiple bathroom runs, disrupting your work flow. For some people, coffee makes them feel jittery or creates gastrointestinal disturbances. If you’re looking for a cleaner caffeine, try green tea, which can be gentler on your stomach. But if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may need an icy decaf to wake you up.
2. Fried, Fatty Foods
A fat-laden, heavy lunch can make you feel sluggish, bloated and unproductive. Keep a bottle of balsamic glaze as a dressing for your salad and go for grilled chicken, fish or meat instead of the fried varieties.
3. Candy Bars
An afternoon pick-me-up may give you a jolt of energy, but the impending crash will make you feel like putting your head on your desk. Skip a sugary snack that is a temporary pick-me-up in favor of an energy bar that provides a balance of whole-grain carbs, healthy fats, protein and fiber.
4. Vending Machine Snacks
Salty, processed and packaged foods can leave you feeling thirsty instead of satisfied. Aside from being void of value, these choices could lead to dehydration, leaving you tired and listless. Stock your workplace with non-perishable snacks that are rich in protein and fiber – think nuts or almond butter with whole-grain crackers – to help keep you fuller longer.
Even though you may love to slurp down these cooling treats, smoothies made with lots of fruit and juice without protein can make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. Smooth out the ride by choosing a beverage with benefits and make or buy one that includes Greek yogurt or skim milk.
6. Frozen Yogurt
If a bloated, gassy feeling is what you’re looking for, frozen yogurt is the way to go! Unless you can get crumbled antacids as a topping, I’d skip this frozen treat until you’re home in the evening. Unpleasant side effects are less common when the yogurt was scooped from a hard pack instead of as a swirl from a machine.
Even if you’ve mastered the art of the healthy sushi order, you’ll likely feel the residual effects – thirst and bloat – from this soy sauce-heavy meal. If you’re craving a roll, ask for light soy sauce and skip creamy sauces and fried ingredients.
8. Any Unbalanced Meal
Meals that are unbalanced make us feel tired, irritable and eager to nosh. Go for the trifecta that will help you focus on your work instead of the fridge: a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. A turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with mashed avocado, lettuce and tomato is a perfect example of a powerful pick-me-up.