My executive packed lunch: the secret to fuelling yourself for success at work

Having worked in PR for over two decades, I’ve witnessed the full spectrum of workplace eating: from those who ate pretty much nothing but chocolate, crisps and biscuits all day; to those who got by on a reduced-fat cup-a-soup; to those who favoured a bacon bap; to those who ate nothing at all and just drank coffee.

I find that there’s a mind-boggling blind-spot when it comes to eating at work. Most people simply don’t make the connection between what goes in their mouth and their productivity, ability to think clearly, energy levels, positivity, creativity and mood. All of which are make-or-break keys to success at work… no matter what field you’re in.

As we’ve all experienced, blood sugar crashes quickly translate into doing and saying things which we later regret: whether it’s a careless mistake, snapping at a colleague or visibly zoning out in a client meeting. They may even cost us our job. How ironic that ambitious execs tend to devote more time and effort to refining their LinkedIn profile than they do to their food, blithely ignoring the fact that it has such a far-reaching effect on their performance at work. (I can tell you that, on those occasions when I was trapped in a four-hour boardroom meeting with no proper food, my first-class degree and stack of industry awards counted for absolutely nothing because my brain just turned to mush and all I thought about was filling my tummy.)

Being someone who was pretty much starving all day, no matter how much I ate, it was unthinkable for me to get through the day without a substantial lunch. I’d generally opt for a carbohydrate-bomb in the shape of a baguette sandwich or pasta dish. These days, I’m fortunate to be based at home where I can eat a home-cooked lunch. I’m also finally aware, after 40 plus years of being a slave to my yo-yoing blood sugar, of how to fuel myself properly.

While I’ve switched career to health coach, my husband is still MD of our busy PR consultancy and he’s been on something of a health-kick recently, so I’ve been helping him assemble his lunches.

I thought I’d share his lunchbox for today and talk you through why it’s such a winner at work.

Let me first say that this meal took all of three minutes to throw together as I’m a big fan of cooking once and eating twice, three times or as many times as I can possibly eke out of one batch of cooking.

Here’s what went in it:

  • A big layer of lettuce leaves (these were pulled out from a box of pre-washed lettuce I prepare once a week).
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes.
  • A piece (about palm-sized) of salmon which was from last night’s dinner.
  • Some roasted sweet potatoes (also from last night’s dinner – I coated them in cinnamon, turmeric and paprika before roasting).
  • Half an avocado sliced.
  • A generous dollop of my favourite dip, tahini (I make a load of this every few days to keep in the fridge).
  • A big sprinkling of pumpkin seeds.

In addition, I included some salad dressing (cold-pressed olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Himalayan pink salt) in a separate bottle.

So, why is this such a power-house of a lunch as well as being a pleasure to eat?

The salmon gives you that all-important, high quality protein you need at each meal; veggies give you a load of health-protecting plant nutrients; you’ll get a good dose of key minerals such as zinc and calcium plus B Vitamins from the seeds and tahini; and the slow-burning carbs in the sweet potatoes will keep your blood sugar steady. And now for the key thing I want to stress about this lunch… it’s absolutely rammed with good fats (in the salmon, avocado, pumpkin seeds, tahini and olive oil).

It’s crucial to remember that these good fats make us feel full, keep our energy levels stable, feed our brain (which is 60% fat), improve our mood… and make food taste good! Eating a lunch such as this means you won’t be hit by an energy dip at 4pm and need to reach for a chocolate bar.

Can I say loud and clear that these fats will NOT MAKE YOU FAT!!! It’s the sugar and refined carbs probably sitting on your desk that make you fat. My husband has been eating my power packed lunches for the past month and is close to losing the excess stone he wanted to shift ahead of the summer and which was accumulating around his waist.

If you’re looking for your next promotion and to boost your salary, it’s probably worth bearing this in mind: research has shown that your brain shrinks in line with your belly getting bigger. Think about this for a second: it’s impossible to excel at work and move up the career ladder if your brain is shrunken and compromised. Your brain not only dictates the quality of that report you’re working on, or how compelling your next presentation is…but your relationships and the decisions you make across all aspects of your life. In short, it dictates pretty much everything. And I think that merits putting a bit of thought into your packed lunch.

Over to you now. What’s your go-to work lunch and what do you eat to power you through stressful days? Feel free to share!

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