April 22, 2021 • Food5 min read

Healthy habits: the productivity pick-me-ups study | City Pantry

In our new Productivity Pick-Me-Ups study, we collate expert advice on the nutritional value of common breakfast food items to promote healthy eating habits among workers.

Over the last year, many of us have had to pivot our eating and exercise habits to navigate the new normal - whether it was replacing regular gym sessions with at-home workouts, swapping regular meals out for takeaways, or foregoing healthy eating habits altogether while working from home. 

And while it’s understandable that our health and fitness priorities may have shifted over the last year, there’s no denying that taking care of ourselves is more important now, than ever before. Ultimately, is the onus on employers to improve healthy food provisions for their remote teams, through healthy hamper deliveries or similar incentives? 

The Productivity Pick-Me-Ups study - conducted by City Pantry - collates advice from nutrition experts to reveal the mental and physical implications of eating sugar-laden foods during the working week, and to advise workers on what they should consume instead.

Expert Advice: Healthy Eating Habits at Home 

Whether working remotely or not, the nation needs to prioritise healthy eating and exercise habits to improve their physical and mental wellbeing in 2021 - but is this easier said than done? With so many less-than-healthy options available on the high street, we asked workers what else they need to consider - aside from calories - when deciding what to consume during the working week. 

For David McHugh, CEO at My Mixify, caffeine and sugar consumption is a key area of concern for commuting workers who turn to sugar-laden coffees on their way to work. 

“Sugar and caffeine can be very tricky foods when it comes to productivity and work performance,” he says. “In the short term they seem to improve focus, energy, and work output. But even though sugar and caffeine give people a boost of energy right after consumption, they can cause crashes several hours later, which can correlate with a dip in productivity and focus.”

The addictive nature of sugar-laden coffees can have significant repercussions on reliance, as he continues; “Over a long period of time, constant sugar and caffeine consumption can cause a reliance on those foods and drinks to get the same benefits. The result is a workforce that's powered completely by sugar and caffeine, which isn't healthy or sustainable in the long-term. If employees can slowly cut their sugar and caffeine intake, they'll find that their energy levels are more stable throughout the day.”

Maintaining focus throughout the working week

Dr Craig Duncan, Human Performance Strategist at PIA, believes that the most important factors when it comes to maintaining energy and focus throughout the day are sleep, routine and avoiding overeating. 

“I believe that we are all individuals and need to work out what works best for us in different situations,” he weighs in. “However, it is best to stay away from processed foods, so to be as natural as possible and eat quantities according to your caloric output. The most important variable in being focused is to make sure your sleep quantity and quality is adequate.

“There is no doubt sleep is the foundation of all performance. The other key pillars are regular exercise and sound nutrition. There is also positive evidence that meditation can have a beneficial impact, and when individuals find a suitable style that suits them, there is no doubt you will see good results. The most important point is that people are well educated on a sound nutritional regime and prepare accordingly. As the public becomes more educated, the demand for good nutritious foods will drive shops to stock such items.  However, we need to take responsibility for our own health.”

For Dr Craig Duncan, caffeine can be beneficial in specific situations, as long as it doesn’t encroach on crucial sleep routines. 

“Caffeine can be an excellent cognitive enhancer,” he added. “However, it should not be used as a bandaid for poor sleep. A coffee after lunch, in the morning and mid-afternoon can enhance performance - but try not to have caffeine after 3-4pm as it can and will harm sleep. Furthermore, when people think of coffee, they may think an elaborate milk-based coffee is okay, but we need to be mindful of the extra calories and sugar that make up some coffee orders.”

Productivity and positivity: foods to avoid

According to expert advice provided by Dr Uma Naidoo - board-certified psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and nutrition specialist - workers should look to eat foods that reduce inflammation as this causes low energy levels and fatigue. 

“Low-grade inflammation flips off a metabolic switch in the chemical pathway that produces energy,” she explains. “When inflammation is present in the body, less energy is available to the brain, so it’s important to eat anti-inflammatory foods to ensure workers wake up in a good mood and stay energized and focused through the entire morning.”

With that in mind, she advises workers cut back on the following foods: 

Dr Naidoo advises workers cut back on the following foods:

- Highly-processed & Ultra-processed foods (like boxed cereals and chips)

- Trans fats

- Unhealthy PUFAs (processed vegetable oils like corn, grapeseed, sunflower and soy oils)

- High-GI carbohydrates

- Added and refined Sugars

- Artificial sweeteners

- Processed meats and cheeses

- Excessive coffee and alcohol 

And instead opt for “polyphenol-rich cauliflower, carrots, red pepper, cabbage, dark chocolate, mexican oregano, broccoli, chestnuts, blackberries, apple cider vinegar, onion and garlic.”

When it comes to paying attention to our eating habits, it’s all too easy for workers to grab a breakfast to go from a high street chain without being aware of its nutritional value.

With workers now experiencing lower levels of exercise than ever before due to a widespread shift to remote working, it’s never been more important to prioritise healthy eating and exercise habits ahead of lockdown restrictions easing across the UK.

Summary

At City Pantry, we encourage workers to pursue healthy eating habits through our provision of healthy hampers for teams to enjoy at home, all of which can be filtered on our site to suit vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian diets. We provide options to suit all allergens and are proud to partner with food redistribution charity City Harvest to reduce surplus food waste.