I’m sure you have a demanding life. I do too. We often look for tactics, diet plans, supplements, and caffeine to elevate our performance, help us feel better, and to level up at work and life.
But what if you could level up just by tweaking your eating habits?
Nutrition plays a massive role in our health and well-being. So, let’s dive into five nutritional tips that will help you operate at your peak.
1. Limiting Sugary Foods
Sugary foods might not seem all that bad, but they impact our well-being, cognitive function, and energy levels in a big way.
Sugary foods digest more quickly, which forces the body to release more insulin. Initially, you feel energetic due to the glucose spike in your body. But as insulin absorbs the sugar and transports it to various cells in your body, blood sugar levels drop rapidly, often leading to a crash.
You might feel good for twenty or thirty minutes, but that will often come with a subsequent crash that will lead to brain fog, fatigue, and sleepiness.
Instead of going to the vending machine for a candy bar or grabbing a donut for your afternoon snack, try grabbing a bag of almonds or pistachios, packing your own vegetables and hummus, or if you must have something sweet, some fresh fruit.
One of my top work essentials is the Calpak lunch bag. I’ve gotten in the habit of bringing fruit and vegetables to snack on during the day at work. It has been a game changer to manage my mood and productivity as well as my weight.
2. Eating Fatty Fish Once Per Week
As a society, we’ve grown to associate fatty with unhealthy. While this can be the case, especially with processed foods, it isn’t true for fish.
Salmon, mackerel, herring, and other fatty fish are incredibly beneficial for us. Fish is an excellent source of high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which play many important roles in the body.
Look for wild-caught fish, which are caught by fishermen in their natural habitat. Wild-caught fish are eating a diverse range of foods, free from antibiotics and other unhealthy things that may be fed to farm-raised fish, making them better overall for you.
Omega-3’s are essential for:
- Mental health
- Brain health, cognition and productivity
- Cardiovascular health
- Reducing inflammation
- Healthy pregnancy
- Eye health and vision
- Reducing age-related cognitive decline
Consuming fatty fish once or twice per week is a great way to load up on omega-3’s and reap the above benefits and many others. If you can’t get fatty fish in your diet, you should consider a krill oil supplement instead.
3. Drinking Plenty of Water
While not strictly a nutritional tip, drinking enough water each day is more important than people imagine. You may be sick of hearing about staying hydrated, but it is hard to believe the number of people who still don’t drink enough water. Let’s go over the benefits.
Good hydration is essential for:
- Mental well-being
- Cognitive performance
- Overall health
Dehydration often leads to:
- Brain fog
- Decreased productivity
As a rule of thumb, aim to drink up to 90 ounces of fluids per day, preferably water. If you struggle, you can download an app to remind you to drink water every 30 to 40 minutes, or get a water bottle with time markers to remind you how much to drink by what time each day.
4. Eating Protein-Rich Foods
Some think protein is only important for men or bodybuilders, but this isn’t the case. Protein is an essential nutrient that provides us with amino acids – the building blocks of life.
Protein is beneficial for our immunity, muscle mass, skin, hair, and nails. Without protein, the body can’t function well, and our health takes a hit.
To prevent that from happening, include more protein-rich foods in your day:
- Cottage cheese
Buy the highest quality of these foods that you can afford. Look for grass fed and grass finished beef, wild-caught seafood, and pasture-raised eggs. Organic is always best.
Check out local farms in your area as well. You may be able to find a nearby farm where you can buy meat, eggs and produce that are organically farmed. Ask a lot of questions and tour the farm if you are able.
You can a consider a powder supplement to get some extra protein each day, but typically that isn’t needed.
5. Going for Greens, Greens, Greens
Dark leafy green vegetables are the holy grail in terms of energy and performance. If you want to be a consistent high performer at work and in life, the difference dark leafy green vegetables will make is huge.
Vegetables of any kind are helpful to your diet, but dark leafy green vegetables are VIPs for a few reasons:
- They feed your good gut bacteria, which can help crowd out bad gut bacteria, which can help cure all kinds of digestive and other issues.
- Great source of fiber.
- Excellent source of many nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, antioxidants, fiber, folate, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium.
The guideline is to get 5 servings of vegetables per day, but I strive to make vegetables 50%+ of my daily food intake. A lot of those vegetables are dark leafy greens.
How do I accomplish this? First, as mentioned, I bring vegetables and hummus to snack on at work. Second, I have a large leafy green salad nearly every day for lunch. Finally, at dinner we strive to have two vegetables on our plates. I don’t meet this goal every day by any means, but even having it as a goal gets me going in the right direction.
On the weekends I do a smoothie filled with fruits and vegetables, including a large serving of dark leafy greens.
Bonus Tip: Getting fermented foods into your diet
I have to admit, I basically ate zero fermented foods until a few months ago when my son’s Acupuncturist asked me to try to get some into his diet. I was curious, so I’ve done quite a bit of research, and now the whole family is trying fermented foods.
Naturally fermented foods help strengthen your gut bacteria, curing all kinds of conditions related to everything from improving digestion to obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.
Naturally fermented foods include yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and apple cider vinegar. My kids actually enjoy kombucha, so we are in the habit of drinking it every day.
Try getting one of these into your diet every day for a few weeks and see how you feel.
Level up Just By Eating
Eating better is a journey, but it can have a big payoff in the end. I started really paying attention to nutrition (and exercise) back in my 20s when I Iearned I had extremely high cholesterol. The doctor discussed putting me on cholesterol lowering medications, which I was not going for.
So, I learned about food and changed my diet, little by little. Not only has my cholesterol gone down (still on the high side, but that’s just me), but I feel better, I don’t have energy crashes and I have incredible stamina to work a demanding job with a husband and kids. That’s why I’m so passionate about healthy eating!
Pick one thing to change today. That’s all it takes to start this journey. Maybe it’s drinking your water or maybe it’s increasing your vegetables. Regardless, take that first step to start experiencing the freedom and joy a happy body brings.
Note: If you are having difficulty getting your eating and proportions under control (as I did during the COVID-19 home-all-the-time days) try Weight Watchers online. I did it for 4 months and it totally changed my eating habits for the better.
Eating well and exercising is something I’m so passionate about! I hope you find ways to level up just by eating in your day-to-day life and enjoy the rewards.