nutritionBy Erin Alvarez, executive assistant and nutrition specialist for Heinz Marketing

It’s true. Everyone knows the important meal of the day is breakfast.  That’s because nutrients give you energy. Energy helps you focus.  When we have the energy to focus, we get more stuff done, we are more creative, and simply more productive.

Did you know that 60% of the human brain is made up of fatty matter?  To build brain cells and for cognitive function you need fatty acids.  That’s why Dr. Oz is always pushing flax seed and fish on us.

So, while you are thinking about New Year’s resolutions or planning out your strategy for 2014, think about adding good nutrition to the list. Below are some habits to ditch and some easy tips for eating healthfully at the office.

Recognize any of these? Here are five habits and behaviors to say goodbye to.

  1. By noon you’ve only had two coffees and half a doughnut. You think you’re being good because you ate only half the doughnut.
  2. You’ve memorized the contents of the vending machine.
  3. Your salad has more saturated fat than a slice of pizza. If you are using lettuce as a vehicle to eat bacon, fried chicken, cheese crumbles, croutons, and creamy dressings this means you.
  4. You can’t keep track of all the coffee or energy drinks you consume throughout the day. Hey, I love my coffee too, but a caffeine buzz is not the same thing as the boost you’ll get from nutrient-rich food.
  5. Dining out too much. Shelling out $8 – $10 is average for lunch. Think of how that adds up! Plus, most of the grab n’ go stuff is not all that good for you. Stash the cash for a rainy day instead.

It doesn’t take that much effort to plan for healthful eating. Here are some easy things to bring and keep at work.

1. Water. Stay hydrated!
If you feel thirsty, chances are you’re already dehydrated. Studies show that a 10% cognitive decline begins on just the onset of dehydration leading to poor concentration and even fatigue. Keep a reusable water bottle at your desk – and drink up.

2. Nuts
Walnuts rank high for significant amounts of omega-3 but other nuts are good too. Almonds, cashews, and even nut butters are all good sources of protein and fiber. Read your labels though. Not all peanut butter is created equally. Skip brands that add sugar and hydrogenated oils, which are processed and bad for all sorts of reasons.

3. Nutrition Bars
I like to keep a few Odwalla bars at my desk. There are a lot to choose from, read the ingredients to avoid buying brands that are a candy bar in disguise.

3. Portable fruit & vegetables
Mini bell peppers, apples, bananas, sugar snap peas, and carrots are some of my favorites.

Are you getting your nine servings a day?  Packing a big salad for your lunch is a great way to get a mix of all the vitamins & nutrients provided by fruits & vegetables. However, if all the good intentions in the world just won’t get you to actually build a salad at home and if the $8.00 a pound Whole Foods salad bar bums you out as much as it does me, try “portable” fruits and veggies.  You can keep them in your work fridge all week as a go-to snack option.  Team up with yogurt, almond butter for dipping, or as a side to a frozen entrée, and you’ve got a meal!

4. Yogurt
A great source of protein and other good stuff like tyrosine which is effective in fighting fatigue. It’s also easily absorbed making for a good energy source. Again, read your labels! Many brands have excess sugar and artificial flavors.

5. Hard boiled eggs
At 78 calories, 6 grams of protein, with potassium and vitamins, these are not the evil little demons we were lead to believe they were. Plus, boiling instead of frying eliminates the need to add oil or butter. They are also unlikely to be stolen from the office refrigerator. A little sprinkle of salt & pepper makes a nice little snack.

Here’s to your health in 2014!