As August is coming to an end and September is around the corner, many of us are mentally preparing to return from their summer holidays and ease back into their daily routines. Work and school are approaching and inevitably many face this with a certain level of anxiety, and dread. Besides working on improving your mental attitude towards our routines, work or school, there are also a few things you can do nutritional wise that can help you enter work or school in a more energized, focused and positive way.
The food we consume impacts the way our brain performs, and there are certain nutrients that can boost our brain performance and help us make feel good hormones, such as serotonin. The following tips will help you and your child improve your health and wellbeing and ease into this new season of the year with more grace, positivity and productivity.
1. Focus on hydration
Dehydration can lead to low energy and cloudy thinking. It makes elimination stagnant and it can impact our productivity level. For this reason, make sure you consume two liters of water per day. Take a glass bottle with you to work or when you work out, and send your kids to school with a bottle of water. To make water even more refreshing, squeeze the juice of a lemon in it and add a pinch of Himalayan salt – this will make water even more hydrating.
2. Consume foods that support the brain
Healthy fats are a fuel for our brain. Each cell of our body is surrounded by a layer of fat and consuming healthy fats on a daily basis will ensure our brain performs better, which will result in better memory and concentration ability. But it does matter what kinds of fat you consume. A study* shows that “bad” fats, particularly saturated fats contained in red meat and butter, may actually be harmful to the brain and negatively affect memory and cognition function. For improved brain function, higher productivity, and increased mood, focus on omega-3 fatty acids, and especially DHA and EPA, found in oily fish, such as wild salmon. You can also find omega-3s in plant-based sources, such as avocados, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds and walnuts. Bear in mind that the plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids need to be converted in our body to DHA and EPA.
3. The gut-brain axis
This bidirectional link between the central nervous system (CNS) and enteric nervous system (ENS) is becoming of increasing interest in nutrition as we learn more about the world of our microbiota and how it influences our health and wellbeing. A number of studies link the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the gut to depressive-like symptoms. If you already feel sad that summer is over and is time to go back to work or school, then adding some probiotics to your diet could be a good idea. Adding fermented probiotic foods to your daily diet, such as kefir and sauerkraut, can have positive effects on your mood, sleep and it will also help boost your immune system.
4. Increase fiber consumption
Talking about gut bacteria, what we eat on a daily basis also feeds the microbes in our gut. The pathogenic bacteria in our gut thrive on sugar and processed foods, so you have one more reason to stay clear from these ingredients. On the other hand, the beneficial bacteria in our gut need fiber to feel good and produce important vitamins and by-products that will further boost our wellbeing. Fiber is also important to keep your bowels moving and to avoid constipation and food fermentation in the gut. Add plenty of seeds to your diet (the same I mentioned above) and consume wholegrain and properly prepared grains and legumes and plenty of vegetables.
5. Complex B-vitamins for more energy
Lack of B vitamins can lead to fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, anxiety and depression. B vitamins are needed for everything from a healthy maintenance of brain cells, to the metabolism of carbohydrates. But they also play an important role in the production of neurotransmitters, which regulate mood and conduct messages through the brain. You’ll find B vitamins in foods, such as whole grains, nutritional yeast, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds.
6. Install a daily routine and focus on good quality sleep
Now that you’re back to your usual routine, make sleep a priority. To make sure your sleep is of a good quality, follow an evening routine that will help you ease into sleep quickly. Make sure you stay away from the TV and your phone a few hours before bed, and make your bedroom a technology free zone. You can make yourself a nice herbal tea, infuse some essential oil to help release tension and allow for some relaxation.
Quick lunch box ideas
Finally, I’d like to share with you two easy ideas for lunch that you can bring with you to work or school.
I find that investing some time on the weekend to prepare some of my food for the week ahead in advance, pays off a lot. Not only does it actually save you lots of time in the kitchen during the week, but it also guarantees that you make healthy, nourishing choices when you are busy. When you are out it might not be as easy to find nutritious and healthy lunch options, so opting for a lunch box instead is a great solution, besides being an act of self-care and love. Don’t forget that a lot of times the food we eat can make us feel energized or tired, and if you want to have a productive afternoon, you need to pay attention to your lunch choices.
This example contains a chickpea pasta and a “mac and cheese” sauce, made with butternut squash and nutritional yeast. It is rich in complex B-vitamins, proteins and minerals. You can make a big batch of this pasta on a Sunday and pack the leftovers for lunch the next day. You’ll find the recipe here.
The second option is an example of lunch that you can fix the morning before you leave the house. You don’t necessarily have to have something cooked for lunch, and sometimes a sandwich is the perfect on-the-go choice. And it can also be nutritious. Choose a whole grain sourdough bread, instead of a white one for more fiber and nutrients; spread some homemade hummus (source of calcium and iron), add some baby spinach for a green boost, and a few avocado slices for the healthy fat fix. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast for some more B-vitamins and proteins and you’ve got yourself a nutritious sandwich. Add some veggies and fruit on the side as a snack and you should be good until dinner time.
Do you like the idea of lunch boxes? If so, what are some of the food you bring with you to work or school? I’d love to know, so share in the comments below.