Ask anyone if they are busy and I’ll bet most, if not all of them, say 'yes.' Get up, make coffee, feed the kids, and out the door may be your routine. However, if you are skipping meals, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Feeding your body with good food is key for sustained energy levels, improved productivity and blood sugar regulation. Without good nutrition, our bodies fall prey to illness, fatigue and low energy.
As pharmacists, it is imperative that we eat properly to maintain good cognition and deliver the best care for our patients. You may be thinking, 'I don’t have time to make healthy food' or 'I’ll just grab something in the pharmacy.' Without proper planning, it’s easy to just grab chips or soda from the food aisle in the pharmacy. While that packaged food may taste good temporarily, you will find you hit a wall about an hour after consuming it. You may even be hungry again. No one likes a hangry pharmacist!
Why suffer with blood sugar swings when you can create small changes that make a big difference? Here are 7 key tips to eat healthy no matter how busy you are:
- Don’t skip breakfast. Who hasn’t heard the phrase, 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.' Well, mom was right; there is some science behind it. Skipping breakfast may increase your risk of obesity or make it harder to lose weight. The Weight-control Information Network1 reports that if you eat breakfast you are less likely to overeat throughout the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast may also trigger bad eating habits throughout the day, as cravings ensue and quick-fix fast foods are often sought out. The side effects of not eating breakfast negatively impact weight, hormonal health, memory, cognition and mood.
- Prep in advance. Instead of rushing out the door and having to buy lunch and graze on unhealthy snacks at work, plan ahead. If you don’t have time in the morning, plan some time on the weekend to prepare snacks and meals for your work week. For things like pretzels, trail mix, or nuts, use small bags. For lunch or dinner you can buy BPA-free containers on Amazon or get them at Target.
- Plan grab-and-go snacks. To stay full and boost your metabolism, plan out snacks with protein. Purchase simple, yet healthy snacks like 100 calorie almonds, protein bars or light string cheese.
- Don’t multi-task. A meta-analysis2 completed by University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tended to make people eat more at that meal and that paying attention to a meal was linked to eating less later on. One trick I use is to put my fork down between each bite. This helps to slow down my pace of eating and savor my food.
- Stay hydrated. Often the brain registers dehydration as hunger. If you feel hungry, have an 8 ounce glass of water and wait 5 to 10 minutes. If you are still hungry, have a snack or meal depending on your meal schedule. Staying hydrated helps your energy levels and helps transport nutrients to your body.
- Be prepared when eating out. Many of my clients have lunch meetings or take their clients to lunch. You may have a pharmacy job where you do the same. Most restaurants have a menu that designates healthier options. There are ample ways to cut calories and stay healthy while eating out. If you are ordering out at the pharmacy you can follow these tips. Choose grilled or baked options instead of fried to reduce grease and amount of fat. Ask for dressings and sauces to be placed on the side. Be mindful of fat-laden salad toppings like cheese, croutons, nuts and bacon. Ask for those ingredients to be taken off. All of these methods will keep you on track and getting back to the office without feeling sluggish or needing a nap.
- Choose quality, whole foods. Eating convenience package foods all day will have you feeling tired and sluggish. They also have minimal nutrients. Consume whole foods like fruit, nuts, legumes or cut up vegetables as much as possible. Since whole foods are natural, they contain the highest levels of vitamins, minerals and fiber. They also have healthy natural compounds called phytochemicals, some of which are antioxidants that can prevent cell damage and boost the immune system. Eating whole foods doesn’t have to be boring. Some examples of dishes that can be made with whole foods include peach cobbler, pear salad, mango salad, cream of broccoli soup, bean burritos, bean and avocado quesadillas, sweet potato veggie lasagna, veggie pot pie, stir-fry vegetables and rice, among others.
Implementing one change at a time can set you on a path to success. Remember that your diet does not have to be perfect. There is room for structure and flexibility as you nourish your body for optimal performance and energy.
- Some Myths about Nutrition & Physical Activity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/myths.htm/. Accessed March 5, 2018.
- Lewine, Howard M.D. Distracted eating may add to weight gain. www.health.harvard.edu/blog/distracted-eating-may-add-to-weight-gain-201303296037. Published March 29, 2013. Accessed March 5, 2018.