If your workday is typified by little or no breakfast, a high-calorie lunch and a late, fast-food dinner, you may be programming yourself for fatigue and less productivity.
"The foods we eat can have a direct influence on our energy level and our ability to cope with work pressure," says Suzanne Rice, a nutrition consultant with the Alta California Regional Center.
Skipped meals and irregular eating habits can play havoc with our blood sugar levels, according to Rice. "Skipping breakfast and eating a lunch too high in sugar and alcohol often results in a plunge in blood sugar and energy an hour or two later."
To help eliminate fatigue, try consuming light meals and snacks during the day that combine carbohydrate and protein foods from the four food groups--milk, meat, vegetables and fruits and breads and cereals.
"Because our blood sugar drops during the night, breakfast should include carbohydrates, which raise blood sugar, and protein, which helps maintain a steady blood sugar level," she says.
Rice suggests eating a light lunch and avoiding high-fat or high-sugar foods, including alcohol. "A heavy meal will often set you up for lethargy and loss of concentration in the early afternoon," Rice says. "Choose soup and salad, a fish or poultry entree served with rice and vegetables, or perhaps a tuna or egg salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread."
When 5 p.m. rolls around and you know you'll be at the office for a couple more hours, Rice suggests eating a snack of cheese or peanut butter and crackers.
Canned tuna, cartons of yogurt and cottage cheese, low-fat milk, hard-cooked eggs, nuts, sunflower seeds and a jar of peanut butter are high-protein milk and meat group foods that you can have on hand at home or at the office.
Foods high in carbohydrates such as whole-grain crackers, instant hot cereals, raisins, fresh fruits and juices are also convenient.
"If long workdays have compromised your eating habits, it might be time to reprogram your diet," Rice says. Planning light snacks and meals every four to five hours should keep your energy level and productivity high throughout your busy day.