How to eat your way to productivity when working at home

For many mums, working from home – whether on a flexible work contract, as a freelancer or running their own business – is the perfect solution to the work-life-family balance. However, staying productive isn’t always easy – especially when you have a kitchen of tempting treats calling you.

Nutritional therapist Lauren Gayfer (also known as the Fairy Foodmother) shares her five tips for helping you avoid the biscuit tin – and instead eat and drink your way to productivity if you’re lucky enough to work from the comfort and convenience of your own home.

How procrastination leads to peckishness

Working from home has its advantages and its disadvantages. On the plus side you can work on your terms from the comfort of your own home ‘office’ (in your slippers if you want) and there’s no demanding boss expecting ‘those figures on my desk by 5pm’.

It does, however take an awful lot of self-discipline, organisation, dedication, passion and drive. And one big downside is that the kitchen is always there, with its biscuit tin, the kids’ sweets, and the out-of-reach chocolate – all whispering to you, begging you to just try one little bit.

And when your creative juices are parched, or you really can’t muster up the desire to fill out your tax return, then what do you do? You give into the voices and succumb to the tantalising temptation of the hidden Toblerone, or kids’ Haribo.

Why a little advance planning can help

Then what happens? You feel sick and bloated and guilty for the rest of the day, and the tax return still doesn’t get done. That’s not to say that a little Toblerone isn’t called for every once in a while. But if you are using chocolate – or other sweet treats – to get you through the day on a regular basis, then you’re really not doing yourself any favours in terms of energy levels, concentration (not mention your waistline), and, in turn, productivity.

Working from home can indeed be hard from a food perspective, which is why you might want to do a little advance planning of your meals and snacks so that your cupboards are stocked with the kinds of foods that are going to eliminate those energy dips and sugar cravings – and instead provide you with healthy, work-friendly fuel.

Five health and nutrition tips to boost your productivity

To help you stay productive while working from home, just follow my five top health and nutrition tips for increasing your energy and concentration levels:

1) Always have a good, balanced breakfast

Starting the day with a protein and complex carbohydrate-rich breakfast sets your metabolism for the rest of the day, and helps to avoid the blood sugar crashes and associated cravings later on. Some great examples include:

  • Sugar-free (not ‘low-fat’) nutty (not fruity!) granola or muesli with full-fat natural yoghurt and some fresh berries.
  • Porridge with whole, organic milk or milk-alternative (such as hazelnut, almond, oat or coconut) with goji berries, ground flaxseeds (full of omega 3s for brain health) and plenty of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds).
  • Scrambled or poached eggs and smoked salmon on toasted soda bread or rye bread.

2) Limit your caffeine intake

Tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks (Coke, Diet Coke and energy drinks, etc) create a massive spike in your blood sugar which comes crashing down almost immediately leading to low energy and reduced concentration. Never drink them on an empty stomach, and try to have some protein if you are having a caffeinated drink. Don’t be tempted to switch to decaf as the chemicals used to remove the caffeine are equally harmful. Try herbal teas (I love Pukka teas), green tea or lemon in hot water which is very cleansing.

3) Keep a good stock of healthy snacks

If you have a selection of balanced snacks available to you, try eating these before reaching for the biccies, as they might take the edge off that craving and stop you succumbing to the sugar. Try the following combinations:

  • Oatcakes with houmous or nut butter (such as almond, hazelnut or cashew).
  • Rye crackers with smoked mackerel dip.
  • Berries and almonds.
  • Full-fat natural yoghurt with peaches and pistachios.
  • Apple slices dipped in almond butter.
  • Crudités with houmous or tzatziki.
  • A hard-boiled egg (you can boil these up in advance and keep them in the fridge) and some cherry tomatoes.

4) Take a lunch break

It can be all too easy when you’re at home to grab yourself a sandwich and head straight back to the laptop to carry on working. However, it’s really important to step away from the computer for a while and give yourself a well-deserved break. Eating in front of a screen does not allow your food to digest properly and can lead to bloating later on.

Instead, go into another room, and chew your meal thoroughly. Remember to always include protein with your lunch to minimise the classic 3pm slump. Omega 3-rich oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring can all be bought cooked and are easy to add to a salad, or include some houmous, avocado, eggs or beans/legumes/quinoa (also easy to buy ready-prepared) with a nice soup or salad.

5) Drink plenty of water

One of the biggest reasons for lack of concentration is dehydration. This can be compounded with too much tea and coffee which has a diuretic effect. Fill up a 1 or 1.5L glass bottle or jug with filtered water at the beginning of each day and make sure you finish it. You can include your herbal teas to your overall water consumption. If you find plain water a bit boring, you can squeeze some fresh lemon or lime into it, or even add in some mint leaves and cucumber slices for beautifully refreshing, cleansing and detoxifying drink.

Try out some of these tactics and see if you have a more productive day!

You can read more about nutritional therapy on Lauren’s website.