The Morning Meal’s Impact on Productivity

Ken Dallafior

| 3 min read

Productivity at Work Starts with the Right Breakfast
A healthy breakfast is like the a.m. version of spinach, only tastier.
We know it’s good for us – according to a Food Council survey, 93 percent of Americans believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet only 44 percent actually eat breakfast on a daily basis.
For some, this is old news. But if you’re a small business owner, here’s something important you probably don’t know about your employee’s eating habits:
  • A new study found employees with an unhealthy diet were 66 percent more likely to experience productivity loss than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • In a survey of 15,000 people in the U.S. and the U.K., employees with poor nutritional balance reported 21 per percent more sick-related absences.
Healthy diets start with a nutritious breakfast. It’s a good time to remind your employees – and yourself – just like brushing your teeth, eating a healthy breakfast should be part of the morning routine.
  • Rule #1: Eat something! The worst thing you can do is to come to work with your nutritional fuel gauge on empty. Nutritionists tell us those who skip breakfast are more likely to eat more fat and calories the rest of the day and be overweight.
  • Rule #2: A cup of coffee or tea with a doughnut does not qualify as breakfast. Sure, this will give you a quick jolt of energy. But within a few hours you’ll be feeling sluggish and even sleepy.
In fact, it’s best to avoid sugary foods in the morning altogether, which can send your blood glucose levels on a wild rollercoaster ride. These include seemingly “healthier” choices such as orange juice and breakfast bars. If you have to snack on a breakfast bar, eat it very slowly.
So what foods are on the breakfast to-do list? Low-sugar, high-fiber cereal with no- or low-fat milk and a banana is OK. Even better are meals with a combination of fiber, proteins and healthy carbohydrates. Try oatmeal topped with berries, raisins, walnuts and sunflower seeds along with a hard-boiled egg or peanut butter on whole grain toast. Or perhaps these simple, healthy breakfast recipes from around the world.
I always eat breakfast because I need that energy to start my day. I often eat oatmeal with a very small amount of brown sugar, fruit, eggs and hot tea. I sometimes add nuts for additional protein. When I eat eggs, I either eat them hard boiled, or in a small omelet with feta cheese, tomatoes and spinach. I also drink plenty of water in the morning and throughout the day. For me, the right balance of protein, carbs and nutrients really helps me start my day.
Here are ideas on how you might encourage and promote good nutritional habits at your company:
  • Work with vendors to give employees healthy food options.
  • Free fruit? Apple season is starting in Michigan, so try to work out an arrangement with a local grower. One study showed 96 percent of employees ate fruit practically every day when it was provided for free or at a 50 percent discount, which resulted in a 50 percent decline in employees’ consumption of candy or sweet snacks.
  • Educate employees about the importance of a good breakfast and healthy eating.
  • Have a “Free Breakfast Day” at work and invite a nutritionist from your local hospital to make a brief presentation.
Eating right in the morning can give employees the energy and mental clarity they need to be fully engaged, focused and productive throughout their work day. It’s also essential if they have other health issues or are trying to lose weight. By helping employees make the right choices, you’ll be making your bottom line healthier, too!

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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