Looking to boost your energy at work? Here’s how to snack healthily
By Suzy Glaskie, functional medicine health coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness
Do you ever find yourself mindlessly snacking as you gaze at your laptop? You’re definitely not alone. The workday seems to be longer than ever – and many of us are permanently exhausted, battling brain fog and stressed to the max. It’s not surprising that we attempt to make work more tolerable by turning to snacks. Whether it’s a packet of crisps at 11am or a bar of chocolate at 3pm, we come to rely on these little snacky interludes to keep us going.
Energy-boosting snacks aren’t the answer
The food industry has been very quick to jump on the bandwagon for energy-boosting snacks…but beware! Most of these supposedly healthy products are packed with sugar in one form or another (yes, even the ones in that lovely artisan-looking packaging.)
There’s no shortage of snacks on hand – whether it’s the shelves of chocolate offered to us every time we put petrol in the car, or the junk food dispensers that are a fixture in so many workplaces. It’s hard to resist unhealthy snacks when you’re surrounded by them on all sides. If your job includes a lot of commuting, the urge to snack is often even stronger. I’ve talked to countless people who are on the road for much of the day. They frequently use their car as a mobile snacking station, just to stay awake at the wheel.
I often ask myself why office snacking has reached such epic proportions. I think a big part of it is that most of us are simply not eating well. It’s the norm to either eat a rubbish breakfast that sets us up for cravings – or not to bother with breakfast at all. That means struggling on until we hit a wall and then reaching for the first quick fix we can find.
Fuel your brain
It’s much better to protect yourself against cravings by fuelling up properly in the first place. The first thing to remember is that we need protein and healthy fats with each meal. Good fats keep us feeling full and they also cut cravings, whereas sugary foods and refined carbs keep us on a never-ending loop of wanting more of them.
So give those sugar-filled, low-fat yoghurts a miss and choose real, wholefoods instead. When I switched to having eggs for breakfast, for example, I suddenly found that I no longer needed or wanted to snack constantly at work. That’s because the protein and good fats stabilised my blood sugar so I felt fuller for longer.
I know it’s not always easy to have access to a nutritious meal, so it’s useful to have healthy snacks to hand for those times when we’re on the hoof, grabbing a bite between meetings or just in need of a bit of a lift to see us through until dinner. I still snack (though not every day) but I’m very choosy about what I opt for and I make sure it includes those all-important good fats.
Try these healthy snacks
Here are a couple of no-effort suggestions to have to hand at work:
- Nuts and seeds – these are a fantastic brain food (my favourite are walnuts…they even look like a brain!). I’ll often eat these with a few pieces of dark chocolate (cacao is a nice mood-lifter). Or I’ll opt to pair them with some olives if I’m after a salty hit…which I used to get from my daily pack of salt ‘n vinegar crisps!
- Sticks of colourful veg with a hummus or guacamole dip. The dips will keep your energy high and all those veg provide lots of vitamins along with some nice, satisfying crunch.
- Slices of apple with a crunchy nut better, such as almond butter.
Keep yourself hydrated
Many people are totally unaware that they’re chronically dehydrated and that this is making them feel groggy and hungry. They go the entire day without having a drop of water and instead knock back a few coffees or energy drinks.
Personally, I go downhill quickly when I’m dehydrated. And that’s no surprise. Did you know that research has shown that even the mildest dehydration of only 1-2% of body water can affect your ability to concentrate, level of alertness and short-term memory function? Not only that, it can also play havoc with your mood and bring on feelings of anxiety and irritability. You basically turn into a walking liability – not great for your productivity at work or at home.
I learn many of my best lessons from people I coach. One lady, who’d attended a corporate wellness workshop I gave, said to me: “I’ve realised that I’m like the plant on my desk. I always take care to water it but I didn’t use to do that for myself. Now, I see that, just like the plant gets droopy when it’s lacking water, so I get droopy when I’m dehydrated. And I don’t want to be droopy at work.”
The fact is that 70% of your body is water and it’s essential to keep yourself topped up. If you work your way up to drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day, you’ll soon notice how much better you feel. Try keeping a bottle of water on your desk: it’s one less thing to think about and you’ll naturally keep drinking it.
Low energy at work is widespread – but there are easy steps you can take to boost your energy and feel sharper and more motivated. With just a few tweaks to what you eat and drink, you can feel vastly better – and protect your long-term health in the process.
Suzy is a former PR boss who left behind an award-winning career in PR to become a health coach. She has first-hand experience of burn-out, having struggled to juggle the very stressful running of her business with looking after her three children. She now leverages her experience to empower others to look after their own health – mentally, physically and emotionally. She is the founder of Peppermint Wellness and host of the Midlife Illuminated podcast.