As busy women, it’s difficult to eat as healthy as we’d like. Inevitably, we reach for a donut, (at least) a couple of cups of coffee and maybe some chocolate or cookies to keep ourselves alert at work, especially at the dreaded 11 am post-breakfast sugar slump and the 3 pm post-lunch cravings carnival.
There’s one single trick to getting rid of this brain fog and staying alert throughout the day – just add enough protein to each of your meals (including snacks).
Protein is king because it helps us feel more satisfied, fuller and regulates the reward hormones in the brain unlike eating carbs or fats. Protein also has a low glycaemic index so it doesn’t cause sugar highs and lows, which also reduces our cravings.
Eating protein together with our meals and snacks is a simple way to put the power of protein to good use (and it’s yummy to boot!)
How To Beat Brain Fog And Crush Cravings At Work With The Power Of Protein
1. Start Your Day With Some Protein
If you’ve been searching for a way to reduce your caffeine intake or simply switch to a healthier breakfast, adding protein to your first meal of the day is a great idea.
If you make breakfast at home, having a couple of eggs for breakfast is a simple hack. Worried that it takes too long? You can prep eggs on the weekend and simply reheat them in the morning before work:
Hard boil and peel eggs on the weekend. Cut into small pieces and keep them in the fridge. At breakfast, simply mix together with some salt, pepper, and mustard to pop on toast for an easy meal.
Make baked frittata muffins on the weekend and simply reheat them when you want to eat. You can even pop some in your bag and heat them up at work!
If you’re an oatmeal or smoothie type of person, mix some protein powder into your morning oats/drink to power it up. Or switch to soy milk which has much more protein than normal dairy.
If you prefer colder breakfasts, add some Greek yogurt into your granola for the protein bump.
I bet you’ll get so much more done before lunch because you’ll be more alert, more awake and won’t be relying on the coffee to push you through.
2. At Main Meals, Include 1-1.5 Palm-Sized Servings of Protein
At lunch, make sure you get enough protein in addition to your vegetables and grains.
For meat eaters, aim for 1-1.5 palm-sized servings of lean meat. For vegetarians and vegans, get 1-1.5 cups of tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas or beans.
Often, we don’t have good takeout options near work so we end up eating carb-heavy lunches which them promptly push us to feel sleepy a couple of hours after lunch. Dialing up protein at this meal (even at the expense of carbs) is a great way to stop having the post-lunch crash which makes our afternoon very unproductive.
One simple way is to ask for extra servings of meat, beans and veggies and less bread or rice. You might have to top up a dollar or two but most takeout joints will easily accommodate the request.
If you have a couple of hours on the weekend, you can even meal prep really quickly using the one-pan sheet prep method – this basically involves chopping the meat and vegetables, seasoning them and laying them all out on one pan to bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Bam! You’re done.
3. Incorporate Protein into Your Snacks Too
Now that you know the power of protein, don’t even glance at muffins or juices or any such sugar-laden treat for the afternoon pick-me-up. They help for half an hour but then we start looking over our shoulder for something else to eat, over and over until it’s time to leave work.
Instead, pack these simple snacks in your handbag (or pick them up at the convenience store) and you’ll never have an afternoon slump again! Bonus – no prep needed.
Some naturally high-protein snacks are:
Greek yogurt: get unsweetened versions of brands like Chobani which have thicker creamier yogurt and are also higher in protein than their counterparts. Double win!
Dry roasted edamame is a great alternative if you’re craving something crunchy. It has twice the amount of protein as chickpeas and beans, which makes it even more satiating.
Cottage cheese – can be eaten just plan, topped with some cacao powder and peanut butter or paired with an apple. It’s great when you are looking for something a little tangy and salty.
Beef jerky – high-quality jerky like Brooklyn Biltong and Think Jerky have minimal ingredients and come from grass-fed beef that is healthy for us. In addition, these come in many flavors (just like chips) to satisfy any type of taste craving we may have that day.
Cheddar cheese – good quality cheese slices with crackers anyone? Honestly, we can just eat the cheese as is – it’s so good even without crackers and has a good amount of protein to keep us feeling satisfied. As a plus, cheddar cheese slices are available even in the most unpretentious little shops.
Kefir – if you feel like drinking something, pick up some unsweetened Kefir instead of juices or smoothies. It’s a cultured milk drink which has good protein but is also high in probiotics to keep your tummy happy.