08/25/2017 Diet and Productivity, Part 2: Office Eats

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

Diet and Productivity, Part 2: Office Eats

Did you know your brain consumes about 20% of your daily calories?1 Feed it well! Make sure the calories you consume come from foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that actually help your brain perform better. Anything less, and you just might not reach your productivity potential.

In part 1 of this series on diet and productivity, we looked at how we can help our kids perform better at school by arming them with healthy food choices during the school day.

This time, we focus on the grown-ups, who don’t necessarily have someone standing over their shoulder helping them make dietary decisions. But you do have this handy guide, so prepare to sit down in your office lunchroom, take a bite, and boost your brain power!

Understanding those mid-morning and afternoon slump

Let’s start by looking at the foods that are not likely to help us produce and perform at full-throttle, like these office vending machine and conference room staples: 

  • Soda pop
  • Pretzels
  • Donuts
  • White bagels
  • Potato chips

You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon: you eat one or more of these goodies and get a quick boost of energy followed by an uncomfortable drop in blood sugar. You hit a slump. And we all know what happens when we hit a slump? We’re hungry, probably a little sleepy, and a trip to the vending machine—or back to the conference room for leftovers—sounds like a great idea. “Sugar! Salt! Fat!,” our brains scream. And so we circle back to the soda pop, pretzels, donuts, etc. Or maybe we head out for some pizza.

Foods with a high ranking on the glycemic index (a value of 70 or more) are more quickly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a higher and faster rise in blood glucose than foods lower on the scale (think blueberries and multigrain bread).2 The energy they provide is literally short-lived, setting us up to want more, more, and more.

Why not feed your brain something more energizing in the first place? The point is to maintain your energy level so you don’t hit a slump. Conventional wisdom and volumes of scientific evidence tells us to reach for foods that have a slower burn. That is, a value of 55 or less on the glycemic index.2 Most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and healthy fats provide our bodies and brains with more sustainable energy. They keep us feeling full for longer, keep us energized for longer, and keep us productive for longer.

Pack up and pack in some brain food

How about we jump right into some Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) research that shows just how much of an impact these healthier foods can have on our productivity:3

  • Employees who eat healthy all day long were 25% more likely to have higher job performance
  • Employers who ate 5+ servings of fruit and vegetables at least 4x per week were 20% more likely to be more productive
  • Compared to their peers who were obese, employees who ate healthily and regularly exercised were absent from work 27% less and performed 11% better at their jobs

So based on these insights from HERO and some other nuggets of knowledge compiled by Entrepreneurs & Business Owners Community (EBOC), here are some great ideas for foods to pack in your lunch sack: 3

  • Almonds: These nuts are a great source of phenylalanine, providing a boon to mental and neurological health, plus riboflavin, which boosts memory…so remind yourself to pack some.
  • Banana: This take-along fruit gives us 25 grams of glucose circulation in blood stream, just the amount our brain works best with.1
  • Blueberries: These tiny berries have antioxidants that improve memory and motor coordination and even counteract oxidative stress. Plus, they’re arguably more delicious than a candy bar or gummy bear.
  • Dark chocolate: Treat yourself to a serving! It contains antioxidant properties that increase production of endorphins while enhancing focus and concentration, so you’re a star at your afternoon meeting.
  • Dark, leafy greens: Grab some of these at the salad bar for your fill of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients like iron, which brings more oxygen to the body and improves cognitive control.
  • Eggs: These contain B Vitamins that enhance our memory and reaction time—both come in handy at work. You might want to hard boil them, though, for less mess!
  • Spinach: Don’t leave these leaves out of your salad because they’ve been shown to improve learning capacity and motor skills.
  • Walnuts: These nuts even look like a brain. They are wonderful for the nervous system, thanks to their high protein content (15-20%) and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Yogurt: Packing protein, minerals and probiotics, this dairy wonder can increase the amount of water absorbed by our intestines, improving lived-by-the-brain hydration.

For more about brain power, don’t miss 8 Tips to Improve Your Memory.

Hungry for more food tips? Check out Summer Immunity Boosters and The Heart-Healthy Office: Care Tips for Eating Your Way to Wellness.



Long, J. (2015, June 25). Get More Done by Following 'The Productivity Diet' (Infographic). Retrieved August 04, 2017, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247650.

1 Nixon, R. (2009, January 07). Brain Food: How to Eat Smart. Retrieved August 04, 2017, from https://www.livescience.com/3186-brain-food-eat-smart.html.

2 (n.d.). Retrieved August 04, 2017, from http://www.gisymbol.com/about/glycemic-index/.

3 Friedman, R. (2015, December 30). What You Eat Affects Your Productivity. Retrieved August 04, 2017, from https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-you-eat-affects-your-productivity.

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