Power Foods for Busy Professionals and Working Moms
Whether you’re running from meeting to meeting or racing the kids from gymnastics to hockey and soccer, it can be near impossible to fit in a nutritious meal or snack for yourself.
No matter the life pressures you’re facing, here are a few easy tips to make sure you get the nutrition you need to stay healthy, happy, and productive.
Pack a Snack for Hunger Attacks
The midmorning munchies are the plight of every busy woman. Maybe you were up at 5 a.m. to hit the gym before work, or only had enough time to grab a tea while juggling your keys and bag on your way out. Keeping your blood-sugar level balanced during that midmorning crash with a healthy on-the-go snack can mean the difference between a successful day and a meltdown.
High-protein and easy-to-travel snacks are essential for any busy woman. For instance, try precutting some veggies and taking a pot of hummus to go. If you’re short on time in the mornings, try prepping your Monday-to-Friday veggies on the weekend and keep them wrapped in a damp paper towel in the fridge.
Keeping our blood sugar balanced with a simple snack can help keep our brain on top. An ideal snack should provide a balance of at least two of the following three nutrients: healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates.
Pack portable snacks rich in B vitamins, which are essential for energy metabolism. Vitamin B6 is one of the key nutrients involved in making glycogen, a fuel used by muscles and the liver to buffer blood-sugar levels and keep your brain ticking. It’s also essential for making hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in our blood.
Bananas are one of the highest natural fruit sources of vitamin B6, delivering about one-third of your daily needs in a single medium banana. Not to mention, bananas are one of nature’s most naturally portable foods. Pair a banana with a handful of raw almonds or peanuts for an energy-boosting midmorning snack. These nuts are a great source of vitamin B3, which is essential for converting fat, protein, and carbohydrates into energy.
Other on-the-go snacks that are rich in B vitamins include the following:
- A mix of sunflower seeds and pistachios (B3 and B6)
- A nutty granola bar (B6 and B1)
Light, Easy-to-Assemble Lunch
One of the most common nutrient deficiencies faced by Canadian women is iron deficiency. Not getting enough of this essential mineral can lead to anemia and fatigue. For a simple, iron-boosting lunch, pack a spinach salad with strawberries, pine nuts, and pecans.
The slightly acidic pH of the strawberries (and for a bonus, use a raspberry vinaigrette dressing) will help your body absorb the iron in the spinach, while the pine nuts and pecans will give you a hit of protein and healthy fats to fuel you through your workday.
Spinach is also a great source of folic acid, an essential vitamin for women of child-bearing age. This B vitamin boosts the production of pathogen-fighting white blood cells to keep you firing on all cylinders when there’s that pesky bug going around the workplace.
If you don’t have enough time to make this in the morning, try buying the ingredients in bulk and storing them at work for a light, midday pick-me-up.
For an added nutritional boost, slice up a piece of chicken breast. Research has shown that adding meat to a meal can improve the absorption of iron, including the iron found in vegetables.
No Time Means “To-Go” Time: What to Do if You Can’t Prep
Despite our best efforts to be prepared and eat meals cooked at home, life gets in the way and we find ourselves at a food court or picking up some takeout. It can sometimes be unavoidable, so when it happens, make sure you’re armed with these tips to opt for a healthier option:
- Order veggies and eat them first. By eating your nutrient-packed foods at the beginning of a meal sets, you’ll set a good tone for the rest of the experience and be less hungry and tempted for less nutritious foods later on in the meal.
- Swap cream-based soups for broth soups.
- Ask for salad dressing or sauces on the side.
- Try to steer clear of alcohol, juices, and other caloric drinks.
- Choose broil or baked over fried.
Don’t Forget the Water!
With all this talk of food, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated throughout a busy day. Our bodies are made up of approximately 70% water, and even a small dip in hydration can have significant repercussions for our mental alertness and physical energy. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to add to your routine.
Water is the basis of what transports nutrients and waste products through our body, and is essential for joint lubrication as well as muscle and brain function. Although we obtain a good portion of the water we need through our foods, try to consume at least one litre as pure water.
To make sure you’re drinking enough, get into the habit of carrying a water bottle with you. That way, regardless of where you’re running to next, you can stay hydrated. Opt for a high-quality stainless-steel or glass water bottle for clean and sustainable hydration. You can also try a coloured water bottle or cups to draw your attention to the container and continually remind you to take a few sips.
The busyness of modern life can pose challenges to meeting our nutritional needs in a healthy and fulfilling manner. A little prep can go a long way by supporting our energy metabolism with foods rich in B vitamins and iron. Make a smart strategy for those times you have to hit the food court, and stay hydrated for boosted energy.
Michelle W. Book
A graduate in holistic nutrition and spokesperson for the
Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), she focuses
on living life and raising a family focused on holistic
health and wellness.