Let’s be honest. How many mornings, (does 10:30 sound about right?) have you sat at your desk, completely ravenous? I’m betting at least once in the past week. And what about the mid-afternoon slump? For me, it hits early, 2:30 or 3pm, and then again at 5, making last minute work nearly hopeless as my mind envisions chunks of cheese, crackers and handfuls of cocktail nuts.
As career-driven women many of us plan our lives down to the smallest detail. But we leave out the most important thing: the fuel to keep us going. I often think of my body as being like a car. It’s gotta have the fuel to make it go.
Here are some tested tips to keep your energy level up on even the most difficult day.
Get an Early Start
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! This is not a news flash. But it is still good advice that many women continue to ignore. You should eat breakfast everyday, especially if you tend to get busy and eat a late lunch or skip it entirely. Not to be confused with our favorite Cocoa Puffs, you’ve got to make good choices. A girlfriend of mine in medical school revolutionized my morning meal by making it clear that my breakfast had to have protein and fiber. The combo of the two will keep you full and satisfied, lengthening the amount of time before your stomach rumbles again. Recommendations: High-protein, high fiber cereal with milk or yogurt, a cereal bar with a latte on the go, or my favorite, a one- minute egg. Here’s how you do it: break egg into a small, microwave proof bowl. Puncture the yolk and cover the bowl with wax paper. Cook for one minute. Voila! A ‘fried’ egg. Serve it with a piece of wheat toast and you’ve got breakfast in just under two minutes. Less time than it takes to blow-dry your hair.
I love bringing leftovers for lunch. I aim for a complete meal with protein, grains and some veggies – a tasty way to get you ready for a big afternoon. I am also a big fan of soup. Often on Sunday afternoons I’ll make a big pot to last all week. Add crackers, a little cheese and an apple and your mid-day meal is complete. If you are the type that has to order in or go out to lunch all the time, look for salads, sandwiches or appetizer sized plates. At all cost avoid huge meals with fried foods – these are the quickest way to have you in a food coma an hour after lunch! If you do have the tendency to get tired after lunch, make sure you get some fresh air after the meal. Walk to get that cup of coffee.
I firmly believe in being a smart snacker. This idea was solidified when I read that a corn muffin from Dunkin’ Donuts has 510 calories. The “lighter” version weighs in at 410. It doesn’t make your afternoon trip to the bakery seem quite so innocent anymore, does it? I have to admit, I have a huge sweet tooth which usually kicks in around 3PM. There are times I would kill for a cookie. And of course, there are times I indulge. But I also keep snacks in my desk for just this reason. My favorites: combos of dried fruits and nuts, granola or energy bars (watch out, the chocolate covered ones can get addicting), apple slices with peanut butter, low-fat yogurt or smoothies.
Dinner can be problematic as it is easy to let your hunger and exhaustion push you to getting drive-through or take-out. If I know that I am going out to dinner or staying late at work, I bring a small bag of nuts or crackers in case of hunger emergencies. At home, I munch on olives, grapes or veggies while cooking and enjoying a glass of wine. Just like lunch, a combo of protein, whole grains and veggies are great for dinner. Rice, stir fry, couscous, frittatas and veggie tarts provide healthful dinners and great lunch leftovers for a day or two.
We make a million smart, balanced choices all day at work. What we eat should be an easy one. Eat with your head, not your hunger and you will feel ready to take on the world.