Being efficient doesn't just revolve around new apps, ergonomic desks and power meetings. Eleanor Ross asks whether it's time to rethink what you eat?
Who remembers Police Chief Wiggum in the Simpsons, feet up, leaning back, chowing down on a doughnut and coffee? Not the most effective-looking police chief of all time. But replace the doughnut with a bowl of wholegrains and his cup of Joe with an avocado smoothie and, bingo! Who knows what he's capable of now?
Making your business more efficient doesn't have to just revolve around new apps, ergonomic desk designs and short, sparky, meetings. Think about what fuels you and your staff, because without people, there would be no business at all.
Lists of healthy foods are ten a penny, but often feature expensive ingredients like goji berries and blueberries. Here are some cheap, everyday foods that you can find everywhere and are healthy to boot.
Probably the easiest thing to prepare and eat as an al desco snack. Slice an avocado in two, wrap it in cling film and voila! You've got a great source of Vitamin E (which will help kid your body you've seen sunshine in the last month). Avocados will also fill you up nicely so you won't have to keep leaving your desk for pieces of buttered toast.
Seeds can be a bit hit-and-miss at work. A handful of mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, and linseed) can provide lots of essential fatty oils and nutrients, but you'll also need to perfect that hand-to-mouth lob that seed-munchers the world over will be familiar with. And until that happens, you may want to stick to eating seeds in private, with a spoon, over the sink. Because they get everywhere.
Omega 3 helps you concentrate on tasks, because the fatty acids play a part in brain cell development. Fish is a great source of omega 3, but vegetarians need not miss out: both linseed and flax oil are great substitutes (and are less pungent).
It's free, it's easy to access and Caroline Keighley, CEO of Nutritional Needs, says that energy levels at work can really fluctuate depending on how much water you're drinking. She recommends chugging between 1.5-2 litres of water or herbal teas a day because "as little as 1% dehydration can affect cognitive function". Summary: drink more water, write more code.
Ok, so don't flip out on us like the caffeine addict you are, but there are other ways to get your fix. This way is healthier, cheaper (no milk needed) and packed full of antioxidants that will make you glow and impress prospective clients. "How efficient and new age and good," they'll think, as you smugly hold your hand up to the coffee pot and brew your verdant beverage.
When you're tired it's easy to snack on crisps and cake throughout the afternoon, and a big plate of pasta probably rates as the easiest dish to create after a long day staring at pixels. But you don't have to give up carb-y treats. Joanne Jackson from Whole Nutrition raves about brown rice and slow-releasing carbs. "Complex carbohydrates take longer to go through the metabolic process which produces a slower and more sustained release of energy. Try wholemeal pasta and wholegrain bread instead."
You should probably eat every three to four hours to keep your energy levels up and your brain wired. A jar of nut butter (try almond) is an easy snack to dip into at your desk when the hunger pangs strike. Keighley suggests eating nut butter with oatcakes or vegetable sticks. Try almond butter for a healthy alternative to peanuts.
Elizabeth Cooper, founder of Yorkshire Nutrition, also recommends eating antioxidant rich foods while you're working late into the night. She suggests baked sweet potato chips which can be quickly chopped up and thrown in the oven for 30 minutes the night before. Scatter some smoked paprika and salt crystals over the wedges and you've got a smoky, southern treat when you're at work. (Tip: Don't put them in a container until they're cold or they'll lose all their crunch).
Blueberries are the darling of nutritionists the world over, and for good reason. They're delicious and they freeze perfectly, so you can bulk buy when they're on sale and crunch your way through them like sparky, sweet ice cubes when the feeling takes you. "Blueberries and stewed apple with Greek yoghurt is a great idea," suggests Cooper.
Life can't all be rose hips and weird smelling infusions. Sometimes you need a chunk of the good stuff, and cacao certainly qualifies as an absolute pleasure in most incarnations. Kingsley recommends "just a couple of squares of dark (70%) chocolate and two to three Brazil nuts can make a healthy snack. Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium which is important for the nervous system and energy production." We'll take that.
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Would Wiggum be the same if he was eating quinoa porridge? Photograph: PR