Are you the type who walks by a Dunkin’ Donuts shop without so much as a sideways glance — but find yourself in the Monday morning meeting intensely reaching for a sugar-glazed cruller (pastry)?
Most of the small business owners I know are so busy running the shop, selling the goods and servicing the customers, that when it comes to eating on the job, their intestinal fortitude flies out the window. With the number of business functions certain to increase over the coming months, here’s a few tips on how to bust bad eating habits typical of small business owners.
#1: Morning meeting carbo load – Despite your best intentions, you give in and indulge when it comes to eating something doughy and sweet at the morning meeting.
Habit buster: Dr. Audrey Cross from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, advises that one way to ward off this temptation is to eat a balanced breakfast.
“A large percentage of Americans skip breakfast and instead have a cup of coffee with some milk and sugar,” says Dr. Cross. “This is not enough calories to maintain mental function in the morning.” She cites a number of studies that indicate that people who eat breakfast perform better in tasks that relate to mathematical computations, memory and logic. “A good breakfast consists of protein and a little bit of fat,” says Dr. Cross, “for example, egg whites with breakfast meat or low-fat cereal with skim milk and fruit.” She explains that the combination of protein and fat leads to longer levels of sustained energy, which helps fight the urge to grab a high-sugar item.
#2: Mid-afternoon munching mania – It’s 2:00 p.m. and you have been too busy to stop for lunch. Now you are so hungry you can’t focus. Your solution is to grab the first thing you can find – a candy bar from the vending machine or a leftover piece of birthday cake in the lunch room.
Habit buster: Tom Weede, author of The Entrepreneur Diet (Entrepreneur Press), explains that when workers put off lunch (or skip it altogether) their blood sugar levels become unstabilized, affecting their energy and ability to focus.
“Turning to candy and other simple sugar solutions for a quick fix sets you up for an unproductive cycle of rising and falling blood sugar levels,” says Weede. Instead, he suggests not relying on what’s available at work but rather keeping a supply of your own snacks. Some of his top recommendations include apples and almonds, string cheese and fruit and peanut butter with crackers.
#3: Late-night dining indulgences – It’s 8:30 p.m. and you’re meeting a client for dinner. You know that eating a heavy meal with a few glasses of wine this late at night is not the best thing. But it’s been a long day and you deserve a nice dinner on the company dollar.
Habit buster: Dr. Cross suggests that selecting lighter foods such as fish or chicken without a heavy sauce is the best option.
“Many business people think that if they eat a heavy meal (pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, for example) this will help them to fall asleep,” says Dr. Cross. “This is true, but they are also more likely to wake up at night with indigestion and then have trouble getting back to sleep – which effects their performance at work the next day.”
Weede points out that it’s not just the content of these late-night dinners that presents a problem, but the size as well. “Restaurant plates today are 1.5 times the size they used to be,” says Weede. To avoid overeating he suggests splitting a meal with an associate, asking the kitchen to cut the meal in half, ordering the lunch portion or just choosing a few appetizers instead of a main course.
As for alcohol, both Dr. Cross and Weede agree that the best bet is not to drink any alcohol within two to three hours of going to sleep.
If you have any tips on how to eat healthily when running a small business, we’d love to hear them.
This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.