Working in the legal profession can often mean endless hours prepping, reading, reviewing, sitting behind a desk, rushing to meetings, hours in court – and basically a commitment that leaves little time for looking after oneself. But just as you do a lot of preparation to get results for your client, you also need to prepare and organise yourself with your eating habits.
By eating well you can actually nourish body and mind and increase your productivity so taking the time to prepare what you eat will actually benefit you in the workplace.
Numerous studies reveal that a healthy diet can not only help you control your weight and lower your cholesterol, but can also improve your concentration, alertness, problem-solving skills, and productivity.
So what can stressed out lawyers do to boost energy and performance?
Poor Diet, Poor Performance
The UCLA Health System reports that poor diet habits can lead to:
- Increased fatigue
- Decreased mental effectiveness
- Increased irritability
- Decreased energy levels
- Decreased ability to think clearly
- Decreased ability to perform your job effectively
- Higher levels of stress and depression
- Decreased productivity.
Time is a hard-to-find commodity but you can take some simple steps to enhance your nutrition, reduce your fatigue and enhance your productivity with these six health tips.
1. Eat Breakfast
Try not to skip breakfast as that gets everything into gear – it revs up the metabolism and sharpens the mind. Certain proteins have wonderful benefits but I recommend avoiding bacon, sausage and eggs if you’re looking for increased energy. The brain relies on glucose for fuel to remain awake and alert so choose carbohydrate-rich breakfast foods such as sugar free cereals or wholegrain bread are fantastic. Healthy options include:
- Carman’s muesli
- Fresh avocado and tomato on wholegrain toast
- Baked beans and/or mushrooms with sautéed spinach on wholegrain toast
- Fresh fruit (if adding yoghurt, use a pot set which is less processed)
- Fruit/vegetable juices or smoothies
- Uncle Toby’s five grains
- Bircher muesli (which you can prep the night before and store in the fridge to enjoy over the next few days. See a delicious recipe below that’s pretty quick to prep and very tasty.)
2. Drink plenty of water
Dehydration can lead to the body functioning less efficiently and being confused about hunger. Keep a bottle of water with you in the car, at your desk and in your bag.
3. Minimise caffeine
If you’re like me, you can’t function without that first coffee in the morning (and perhaps one in the afternoon!) but caffeine intake needs to be limited – one or two caffeinated drinks per day (coffee or tea) boosts energy and mental alertness. However, heavy caffeine users (more than six drinks per day) are prone to anxiety, irritability and reduced performance. Avoid consumption of energy drinks as regular intake of these can lead to restlessness, increased heartbeat and insomnia.
4. Don’t overeat
Big lunches or hot takeaways can have a counter-effect on your energy levels and actually drain you of energy. Ever notice how you get that slump after eating a hot meal? Lunch options that will energise you, and minimise and even stop, that 3:00pm slump include:
- Fresh salads (and not the boring kind) – quinoa and barley salads are a tasty, filling and low GI option. Throw in some beetroot, fetta, spinach or mushroom for protein and flavour. Try tofu and noodle salads – the choices are endless and delicious!
- Salad sandwiches/rolls/wraps (include avocado, beetroot and a vast array of salad with NO cheese) on a wholegrain roll and you’ll be amazed how satisfying it can be
- Sushi, sashimi and seaweed salad
- Raw foods in general – they will provide more energy and reduce fatigue as less work is required for the body to digest them.
5. Eating through the day
If you get a hunger pang or a slump avoid the sugary, high-fat processed foods and chocolate bars. Fuel your body and mind with foods that will naturally provide a sugar high. Apples, blueberries and blackberries are excellent sugar fixes. A handful of nuts (brazil, cashew and almond – all raw) will fill hunger pangs while providing essential nutrients.
Buy a large pack of nuts or trail mix and make portions in little snack boxes that you can keep in your office drawer or take with you on your way to court. In the office, I keep a pack of edamame beans in the freezer as an urgent backup snack. Soak them in boiling water, add some Himalayan pink salt and they make a yummy, filling snack will keep you going for the afternoon until dinner.
6. Eat more real food
Real food means food that’s closer to nature: wholegrains rather than processed chips or crackers from a box, whole fruit rather than bottled juice or fruit bars. The energy dividends will pay off! Nutritionists have found that when their clients swapped more of the processed foods for ‘real’ whole foods, their energy levels went through the roof, and many lost weight, even if the swaps resulted in eating more calories!
Grab a punnet of cherry tomatoes, strawberries, a banana, mandarin, or some stone fruit. Stock up on produce at home for the week, or seek these foods out near the workplace. You can often find a fruit cart or a convenience store to opt for real food over junk food.
You can also add the Vegman app to your smartphone which lists all the vegetarian and vegan food options near your current location, anywhere in the world.
While nutrition covers 80% of our health and wellbeing, incorporating exercise and sleep into your daily regime will also do wonders for battling fatigue, detoxing the mind and enabling you to cope with the demands both in the workplace and at home.
Sources: Better Health Channel, Mayo Clinic, Food Matrix
RECIPE – Bircher Muesli
3 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of frozen raspberries
1 grated apple
½ cup of slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup of Greek or sheep’s yoghurt
Combine the oats, raspberries, grated apple, yoghurt and cinnamon in a bowl and chill overnight.
Toast the almonds by laying them flat on a baking tray (let cool and mix just prior to serving).
Top with toasted almonds and drizzle with warm honey.
Add 1 tbsp of Chia seeds – a great source of omega 3 and 1 tbsp LSA for added protein and fibre. Add both of these ingredients the night before.
By Maria Micallef, Health Writer and Director of Hear Me Raw