Nutrients on the job

September 2, 2008

As you could probably already tell, I’m slightly obsessed with The New York Times. Let’s be honest, it’s the best paper out there. Style section? Amazing. Wedding roundups? Drool-worthy. Food section? Damn delicious. Political pieces? Downright thought-provoking. Business & Technology? Completely necessary and oh so good.

This next post comes as a result of a piece by columnist Marci Alboher, who, in a recent column, tackled how to “eat smart” while on the job below and offers us working WITs some great guidelines so we can curb (or at least try to) that 3:00 p.m. froyo craving and avoid popping a scone every single morning (Peet’s is soooo my necessary evil!)

Her first installment is reprised below. So let’s have at it…

Q: What should you eat before an important meeting to make sure you are alert and the brain is functioning at its best?

A: Foods rich in antioxidants keep your memory sharp and your mental abilities on target. They also happen to be good for fighting disease. Foods high in vitamins A, C and E are antioxidant powerhouses. Reach for berries, dark leafy greens and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, oranges, cherries, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Nuts and beans are also packed with antioxidants. Researchers have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids (good fats) can enhance cognitive function. Cold water fatty fish like salmon and tuna as well as nuts, flaxseed, avocado and heart-healthy oils like olive oil, canola oil and walnut oil are great choices to help you nail that big presentation.

Q: So how does this translate into actual meals for being your sharpest?

A: For breakfast, choose whole grains like a hearty steel-cut oatmeal (McCann’s) or a high-fiber cereal like Kashi GoLean or Heart to Heart or Uncle Sam’s. Aim for a cereal with five grams of fiber or more per serving. A nice dose to fiber will help keep energy, blood sugar and hunger levels stable throughout the morning. Choose unsweetened flavors to skip excess sugar and calories. Top with fresh berries or banana slices and a touch of honey for some natural sweetness and an antioxidant boost. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed meal or chopped walnuts into cold or hot cereal or mix into a yogurt-fruit parfait for a satisfying shot of healthy omega-3 fats.
For lunch, it depends whether you are out or at home. At a restaurant, choose the grilled or roasted salmon instead of the meat or chicken. Pair it with steamed or lightly sautéed vegetables and a healthy complex carbohydrate like brown rice pilaf, couscous or baby roasted potatoes. Or as an alternative, have it over a salad and get an antioxidant boost. If you’re brown bagging it, make a whole-wheat wrap sandwich with two to three thin slices of avocado with grilled chicken, fresh turkey slices, or canned salmon or tuna (packed in water). At the salad bar, go for something loaded with fresh vegetables (and even fruit), and toss in a couple of walnuts for healthy fats. Choose a full-fledged vinaigrette dressing like balsamic or red wine vinaigrette to get the benefit of healthy fats from the olive oil. Don’t be fooled by low-fat or fat-free dressings that may skimp on heart-healthy olive oil (they’re often loaded with extra sugar and carbohydrates).

Q: What’s best for an energy boost when you’re working long hours or late nights and want a snack that won’t bring you down?

A: Natural peanut butter or almond butter with banana slices or fruit spread on whole-grain bread will give you the balanced energy you need to push through those last few hours. Your snacks should provide a balance of healthy complex carbohydrates, a little bit of healthy fat and protein to ensure you’re revved up and your metabolism and blood sugar levels are kept steady. This will allow you to focus, think clearly and get your work done. If you need a little boost of caffeine, try green or white tea in the afternoon or try a cup of peppermint tea, which has been shown to boost mental acuity and alertness.

Now it’s off to try and start taking this advice…Eat wisely WITs!

Photos courtesy of New York Times, BBC and Kashi

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