Nutritional advice from Bahrain-based expert Gabriella Melvin
Time Out Bahrain staff
Newly arrived nutritional expert and Leith-trained chef Gabriella Melvin writes for Time Out Bahrain on how to get your energy back with a few simple lifestyle changes.
Do you often feel tired and unproductive at work in the afternoon … or after you’ve eaten? Is your instinct to drink more coffee, have another sweet drink or raid the biscuit tin (again!)? And then 20 minutes later, you’ve slumped again?
Change your diet - it’s that simple. I spent eight years working at The Pure Package in London, the UK’s leading diet delivery company. We helped thousands of highly successful professionals change their dietary habits by focusing on improving energy levels, habits and portion control. In other words, diets are not just about weight loss: A healthy and balanced diet can help increase your energy levels (and stop the slumps!), aid concentration, enhance your mood, and improve productivity at work. Always aim to have some good quality protein and unrefined carbohydrate in each meal to keep it balanced and follow a few golden rules:
1 Eat Breakfast! Get ready for the day ahead of you with a healthy tasty breakfast. For example, a boiled/poached egg with some wilted spinach and a roasted tomato half or porridge/granola muesli with yoghurt or milk and your choice of fruit (small handful of oats or granola with half a cup of milk/yoghurt and 100g fresh fruit) will not only give you an energy boost to start the day, but a healthy breakfast has been linked to benefiting weight control and improving mental performance.
2 Have two snacks a day so you are eating about every three hours Healthy snacking will help balance your blood sugar levels (energy), curb cravings, help you get more of your fruit and veg RDA (recommended daily allowance) and help you portion correctly at meal times (so you won’t be starving and load your plate up!).
Morning snack: any fruit combination (carbs) with a small handful of raw nuts/seeds (protein). My favourites are an apple with almonds, a banana with cashew nuts, a pear with pumpkin seeds. Afternoon snack: Two tablespoons of hummus with 100g of raw vegetables (carrots, pepper, sugar snaps) or one tablespoon of smoked fish pate with a couple of oatcakes.
3 Lunch - Do it properly! Don’t let work dictate your day – make sure you take the time to eat a healthy lunch away from your desk. We always seem to be on the go these days, running from one thing to the next, so an acceptable lunch becomes a takeout sandwich or burger, crisps or chips and a fizzy drink. Overloading on unrefined carbs causes your blood sugar levels to spike and then drop leaving you feeling lethargic by mid afternoon. Fatty foods will also make you feel sluggish.
Instead swap the sandwich/burger for a homemade salad (see recipe).
This salad is balanced (has both good quality protein and unrefined carbs) so that your blood sugar levels remain even, keeping you alert and focused after lunch. Avocado is rich in potassium and healthy fats that can help reduce blood pressure; spinach is rich in magnesium (helps you stay alert), and the almonds are rich in essential fats (brain food! these also help you keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking).
4 Exercise We all know that exercise is good for us, but you might not realise that it can also help relieve stress, make you feel more motivated and… as some research shows, it can even make you smarter. Exercising at the end of the day is also a great way to help you switch off from work and release any built-up tension, allowing you to enjoy your evening … stress free!
5 Stay hydrated Drinks lots of water! You should aim for between 1.5-2 litres a day. Staying hydrated will keep you focused and clearheaded - and you may find that you are less hungry than normal too as we often mistake thirst for hunger. Watch out for Gabriella’s regular health tips in the coming months.
Chicken, spinach, avocado and coriander salad (Serves 1)
Ingredients: 1 ready cooked chicken breast, torn into pieces 1 Large handful of baby spinach leaves ¼ avocado, chopped into bite-size pieces ¼ red pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces ½ celery stick, chopped into thin slices 1 tomato, chopped into bite-size pieces 1 spring onion, finely chopped 1 small handful of coriander, finely chopped 4 raw almonds, roughly chopped 1 tbsp sour cream
Method: • Combine nuts, chicken, coriander, red pepper, celery, spring onions and sour cream. • Gently stir through the tomato, avocado and spinach and then serve.
TIP: You can swap the chicken for a piece of salmon or, for a veggie option, sauté 100g of wild mushrooms and replace the sour cream with soft goats’ cheese.