Ready to make more money? Exercise – and eat a healthy lunch

Workers who regularly exercise average 9% more in pay than non-exercisers, according to the Journal of Labor Research. Why? Researchers aren’t sure, although some speculate that it’s because exercise increases mental function and energy levels, and improves mood. This makes employees who exercise more attractive to employers – and those same traits will be appealing to your customers or clients.

Question of the day: how can you create the type of culture that encourages healthy living?

You may think that it isn’t your responsibility to help employees to live a healthier lifestyle – but there are benefits you’ll appreciate. As just one, your health insurance company may reward you and, if you’re contributing to your employees’ insurance, this will help your bottom line.

And, by eating a healthier diet, an employee will lower the likelihood of needing to take a sick day. As just one example, eating more veggies reduces the risk of heart disease, which costs about $444 billion to treat annually, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Increase productivity and work performance: eat a healthier lunch

You wouldn’t think that a debate about BLT versus pasta would make its way onto our small business blog – but, it did. And for good reason. As a matter of fact, this topic is even being discussed in highbrow business circles – with an October 2014 blog post on the Harvard Business Review (Ron Friedman) discussing how what you eat can affect your daily productivity and work performance.

How food affects productivity

Food helps your mind to perform at its optimal level, and making bad lunch choices can ruin your afternoon at work. Conversely, when you’re feeling sluggish and tired, a boost (meaning, making the right choices!) will help your body return to optimal functioning levels. As the food we eat turns into glucose, we get the energy our minds and bodies need to be alert and focused.

However, the body processes certain foods differently. For example, cereal, pasta and bread – also known as fast sugars – produce quick bursts of energy, but you’ll crash sooner and drag throughout your afternoon. Alternatively, eating a meal with meat can provide longer intervals of energy, but it’s harder for the body to process and that can leave you feeling drained.

So, what should you do?

First, plan your lunch – and other meals – ahead of time so, when famished, you don’t eat the first thing you see or the easiest food to grab. More specifically:

  • If eating out, consciously choose what restaurant will offer you the best and healthiest options.
  • If packing your lunch, plan what you’ll eat after you’ve had breakfast so you won’t make a choice based on sheer hunger. Or do your planning the night before.

Preplanning helps you to resist more calorie-laden, salty and/or fatty foods that sound irresistible because you’re already feeling starved. Also, if you know you’ll be eating a late lunch, have a snack prepared for late morning noshing.

In fact, research has shown that the best way to remain productive throughout your work day is to snack at intervals. But, this doesn’t mean chips or cookies. Instead, keep fruit and vegetables at your desk. Eating a steady amount of fruits and veggies not only increases your ability to focus and be productive, but is also good for your overall happiness.

A study by published by PubMed found that, when people increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in their daily diets, they tend to have higher levels of creativity, feelings of well-being, and curiosity. The study also concluded that a diet rich in vegetables and fruit can lead to more satisfaction with life, overall, and to more happiness and positive thinking. Hard to beat that!

Studies, of course, aren’t always consistent

An experiment conducted by Lakshmi Balachandra for the Harvard Business Review indicates that business negotiations tend to go better when handled over lunch. Participants from the experiment who discussed business deals over a meal reaped greater profits when compared to those who didn’t eat in conjunction with negotiations. Balachandra concluded that “eating while deciding important matters offers profitable, measurable benefits through mutually productive discussions.”

A different study shows that, to work at peak productivity, it’s important to give your mind a break, eating your lunch away from your desk (and, presumably, away from work). An Entrepreneur article by Lisa Evans shares results from this research that was conducted by John Trougakos, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & HR Management at the University of Toronto.

Want an ever greater boost? Eat your lunch while at a park or another green space. A 2013 study from Heriot-Watt University and University of Edinburgh researchers shows that you can improve attention fatigue and recover from stress more quickly even when you only see the park through a window.

How are Americans doing with improving the quality of lunches?

USA Today, in an article by Nanci Hellmich, reports some good news. Fruit is now the second most popular food eaten in the United States. In contrast, just ten years ago, it ranked number five. So says the NPD Group’s annual report, Eating Patterns in America, now in its 28th year of publication. The most popular fruits? In order: bananas, apples, oranges and grapes.

The bad news? Vegetable consumption is not increasing, perhaps because more preparation is needed.

Overall, the top ten foods being eaten at home and away make up 50% of all foods eaten in the United States. They are, in order:

  • Sandwiches
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Milk
  • Coffee
  • Potatoes
  • Salty snacks
  • Fruit juice
  • Cold cereal

What do you eat for lunch at work? Where do you eat it? Do you see room for improvement in your lunch eating habits? Leave a comment below.

 

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