It’s clichéd but true: You are what you eat. You’re also probably aware that what you put in your body can affect everything from how well you sleep at night to how productive you are during a workday stacked with meetings. But there can be a wide disconnect between what we should be eating and what we actually consume.
That’s why wellness professionals dedicate themselves to helping the harried among us find easy and practical (and delicious) ways to take care of ourselves at work, at home, and beyond. Who wouldn’t like to improve their mood, sleep quality, and complexion—not to mention their performance at work? During a recent talk at WeWork Now in New York, celebrating the launch of The Well+Good Cookbook, Well+Good co-founder Melisse Gelula spoke with three wellness experts about ways that anyone can eat themselves healthy and glowing, no matter how interminable their to-do list.
Keep your mood regulated by avoiding sugar—and eating a proper balance of fats and vitamins, too. What you eat has a tremendous impact on your cognitive functioning, and studies have proved that diet affects mood. According to Harvard Medical School, 90 percent of serotonin receptors are located in the gut. A recent study suggests that a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet––which emphasizes plant-based food and healthful fats like olive oil––can alleviate symptoms of ADHD and mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
To keep calm and carry on, author and family physician Dr. Mark Hyman advises getting daily doses of omega-3 fats, MCT-oil (coconut oil), some saturated fats, the right vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D, B-6, and B-12), and magnesium—“the relaxation mineral”—found in beans, greens, nuts, and seeds. He also recommends steering clear of sugar, which raises cortisol levels, lowers your energy, and increases hunger. It can also exacerbate depression and anxiety.
Eat what your body is asking for. In her practice, functional-medicine nutritionist and cognitive-behavioral therapist Dr. Dana James notices two common reasons why her patients aren’t eating healthfully. There’s who she called “my working woman, my Wonder Woman,” who’s prone to rewarding herself with food after a tough day at work, or justifying a glass of wine and a chocolate bar. Then there’s the exhausted eater, who’s too busy looking after everybody else to put themselves first; she knows the morning protein-powder blueberry smoothie is ideal but opts for the on-the-go gluten-free muffin because it’s easier.
“Having that awareness of why you’re actually doing it so that you can alter it is the first step,” says Dr. James”
That awareness also extends to the practice of mindfulness, or paying attention to what your body really needs. As Dr. Hyman says: “The smartest doctor in the room is your own body.”
Plan ahead, and have “go-to” meals you can rely on. One of the greatest impediments to eating healthfully throughout the week is feeling exhausted and lacking time to cook. That’s why experts recommend planning and prepping ahead, and having easy, go-to recipes so you can whip up something nutritious and delicious, no matter how droopy your eyelids.
Dr. James recommends having four standing recipes through which to rotate, and doing a little prep work on Sundays. Her own routine involves grating two carrots and two beets before the week begins, so she can easily pop them into salads.
Dr. Hyman frequently travels for work, making it difficult to keep fresh produce on hand without ending up with food waste. Instead, he keeps his pantry stocked with salubrious dry goods that last a long time and relies on long-lasting vegetables like cabbage.
Vegan food blogger and YouTuber Lauren Toyota prepares for the week by steaming and roasting a multitude of vegetables all in one go, and pairing them with a miso-tahini sauce. It gets thrown in a container so she can just reach for a quick munch with minor fuss during her busy days. “You can live off that if you just add some brown rice, pumpkin seeds, and hemp hearts,” she says. “If I have no time, that’s what I’m eating.”
Transition from work to home time thoughtfully. Sometimes resisting a Seamless or GrubHub order can be as simple as going for a walk, says Dr. James. She recommends shaking off exhaustion from the workday by following a guided meditation or listening to music on your commute. “Make that a time that you go from working [person] to going home and being a [person],” she says. “You need that transition time to take you out of that working freneticism that we take into the house.”