At a recent late afternoon event at my sons’ school, my friend Laura and I discussed our respective dinner plans for that evening. She told me how hungry she was. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and Jewish mother, I couldn’t help but ask, “Did you eat today?”
“I had a piece of toast this morning,” she said.
That was all she had eaten the entire day. And she wasn’t kidding.
When I asked her why she hadn’t made time for a meal or even a snack, Laura said she got so caught up making phone calls, responding to emails and paying bills she had simply forgotten to eat.
At one time or another, you’ve probably skipped a meal or gone several hours without eating. Doing so likely left you feeling sluggish, irritable and lacking physical and mental energy—not exactly a recipe for peak performance in work or everyday life.
While the occasional “off” eating day won’t sabotage your health, skipping meals habitually can cause low blood sugar levels that leave you shaky and dizzy. It also can set you up to overindulge when you do eat, tempting you to reach for nutrient-poor comfort foods loaded with fat, sugar and salt over more nutritious fare. This, in turn, can contribute to unhealthy weight gain.
Taking care of your body by eating nutritious foods is just as vital to overall feelings of well-being as your professional success. No matter how busy you are, these eating strategies will keep you healthy and productive throughout the day:
1. Eat early.
Starting your workday without eating is like driving your car without enough fuel. Even if you don’t typically eat breakfast, grabbing something simple like an apple and a hardboiled egg or an unsweetened plain yogurt and berries tells your body it’s no longer fasting and gives it energy to start the day.
2. Become a pack rat.
Before you shop for your weekly groceries, add some nonperishable snacks to your list that you can mix and match into 100- to 200-calorie packs to keep in your bag and desk drawer. Think raw nuts, dry-roasted edamame, whole-grain (and low-sugar) cereal, popcorn, unsweetened dried fruit and even dark chocolate chips.
3. Plan your eating breaks.
You wouldn’t start your day without a to-do list, so why wing it with your meals? Review your schedule while commuting and plan for an eating break every three to four hours. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
4. Eat like a superhero.
To stay full and energized—and keep blood sugar levels steady—include the dynamic duo of fiber and protein with each meal and snack. Examples include a salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or tuna; whole-wheat crackers topped with almond butter and banana slices; a whole-wheat pita stuffed with hummus and cucumber slices; or a fresh fruit salad topped with low-fat cottage cheese.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.