It’s 11 a.m. The conference call has been droning on for 40 minutes, and you’re starting to nod off. Your mind wanders. Possibly you didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night, and you didn’t eat a good breakfast this morning. You realize that you are not paying attention to the meeting — did you turn off the iron before you left the house? Here is what to eat for optimal productivity.

How we live our lives affects our productivity more than we’d like to think. A study of 20,000 employees by Brigham Young University showed that workers with unhealthy diets were 66 percent more likely to report a loss in productivity.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly — taking care of yourself can make you more productive. Eating more foods that promote productivity without wholesale lifestyle changes should be a goal. Small tweaks to your diet can bring significant changes to your health and your productivity. Remember to take care of yourself with self-care work, and pay attention to your emotional management skills.

Smart Snacks

If you want to boost your focus and your energy levels, choosing the right snacks is a considerable first step.

Step away from the vending machine! The vending machine may miss your warm touch and cold cash — but staying away from the vending machines will save you money and help you avoid unhealthy options. There has never been a genuinely healthy candy or potato chip option. We won’t even discuss carbonated beverages here. What are the smarter choices?

  • Almonds – Almonds contain “good fats,” including polyunsaturated fats and essential fatty acids. Nuts, especially almonds, can lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Additionally, almonds have Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation.
  • Dark chocolate – Packed with flavonoids, dark chocolate can boost your brainpower. And with about as much caffeine as a cup of green tea, dark chocolate can give you an afternoon boost without the coffee-crash. Or have some dark chocolate with your coffee.
  • Walnuts – Walnuts can lower your lower blood pressure and protect arteries because of a type of Omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Walnuts have also been found to improve memory.
  • Apples – Apples also contain flavonoids that can reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Eating whole fruits regularly can help control blood sugar, and apples have been shown to prevent a post-meal crash. Did ole Ben Franklin have it right? “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Thanks, Ben
  • Sunflower Seeds – Sunflower seeds are full of Vitamin E, which has been shown to keep your brain and skin healthy. Vitamin E also improves your memory and prevents cognitive decline.
  • Beef Jerky –Although it isn’t a good idea to eat processed meats regularly, beef jerky is a complete protein that is low in sugar. With the help of a great protein, your energy levels can remain high and steady throughout the day.
  • Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc, an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods. Zinc has been found to assist with ADHD, support memory function, and even keep your brain healthy as you age. Zinc is found in most cold lozenges to relieve symptoms. The mineral Zinc is also involved in many aspects of cellular metabolism.
  • Flax Seeds – Flax seeds contain antioxidants that improve digestion, reduce cancer risk, supports the immune system, lower cholesterol, and improve brain health. Flax seeds can help you, thanks to how rich they are in Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Popcorn – Light and airy, popcorn offers a satisfying crunch with relatively few calories. If you don’t like feeling weighed down by your snacks, popcorn is a great pick.

Foods that Matter

Healthy snacks are essential, but what about when you’re in the mood for a more substantial meal? There are plenty of protein options that can keep your productivity high.

  • Fatty Fish – Fish like salmon, trout, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. The Omega 3 fatty acids build brain cells to support learning and memory.
  • Turkey – Most poultry and fish are great for you. But turkey, in particular, contains the amino acid, tyrosine. Tyrosine has been found to assist the brain in maintaining levels of dopamine, which is a crucial neurotransmitter for memory support.
  • Grass-Fed Beef – Although beef has other health drawbacks, it does offer some key benefits for productivity. Grass-fed beef contains higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and more Vitamin E than corn-raised beef.
  • Eggs – Eggs are one of the richest sources of the essential nutrient choline. The FDA suggests that women get 425 mg, and men eat 550 mg of choline per day. A single egg yolk contains 112 mg of choline.
  • Greek Yogurt – Compared to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is loaded with energy-building proteins. It’s also packed with probiotics, which can improve your immune system and cut down on indigestion. Yes, we should be eating the plain, unsweetened yogurts. Try eating the unsweetened greek yogurt for a while.

What to Do After You Eat

Dozing off in a meeting is generally frowned upon. But if you’ve just eaten a healthy lunch and feel a nap coming on, a nap might not be such a bad idea. A 15-minute power nap can reset your mind’s stress response and help you stay alert for the rest of the workday.

Find a quiet place for a quick doze-off. Some employers use pods or even place beds in the office to encourage productive napping. Our office napping room is used to great benefit. Many use the room after lunch for meditation. Any type of power-reset-and-recharge is beneficial for productivity.

However, ask yourself if the lack of sleep is destroying your productivity.

The right combination of food, rest, and exercise is what it takes to power through a tough day. If you have to — put these todo list items on your Calendar. Don’t be afraid to get a bite or take a quick break if you’re feeling unproductive.