Bust your bad small business eating habits

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 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 your 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.

Karen Leland is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps businesses negotiate the wired world of today’s media landscape — social and otherwise.

23 Comments

Simon H
October 6, 2011 at 12:09 am

Thumbs down for allowing such a generic article onto your blog and one that is so American centric. You might have recently launched into the US but please don’t continue to post such poor quality articles in an attempt to locali(z)e your content. Stand by your NZ heritage and the rest of your customers that know a world exists beyond the East and West coasts.

Clint Davis
October 6, 2011 at 2:07 am

@Simon, You bring up a good point.

Getting back to the roots of why I actually found xero was because of their blog content was so rich with news worthy information I was interested in. This then led me naturally to researching the product and after a few months I switched my books across.

For me the things I am interested about are the posts about CDN’s, Chromium, UI developments and research, how to take a NZ company global, Number of xero customers, game changing xero feature posts, xero touch and development for iphone, etc.

Clint Davis
CEO, Greymouse Teleconference.

Karen Leland
October 6, 2011 at 3:59 am

Hi all. I’m surprised by the comment that this is an American Centric topic. My research tells me it’s sadly a worldwide problem and one affecting productivity globally.

The International Labor Organization estimates that poor diet habits at work are costing countries around the world up to 20% in lost productivity.

According to the NZ Ministry of health 2007 study One in four adults were obese (26.5%), 41.7% of Maori adults were obese, 63.7% of Pacific adults were obese
and 11% of Asian adults were obese.

My personal experience is that small business owners are constantly fighting this battle between taking the time to take care of themselves and taking care of the business.

That having been said, I am always open to hear topics you would like covered in this blog on small business. So please let me know if there is a topic you would like me to write about. If I can, I will.

James R
October 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I’m from NZ and enjoy your posts Karen, they usually strike a chord with me. I’m currently on a US sales trip and just finished a 12oz New York Steak with fries and no vegetables in the hotel restaurant. My wife will be none the wiser.

Karen Leland
October 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm

James;

I am LOL at your comment. Nothing like a good steak and fries. What happens in America stays in America :-)

Bruce Campbell
October 7, 2011 at 11:08 am

I regularly eat out while “on the run” for two reasons:

Because I can
Because I work hard and I deserve it

Your comments on breakfast are absolutely right!

Karen Leland
October 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Bruce;

Oh I so hear that I deserve comment. I can’t tell you how many dark chocolate bars have given their life for that cause. I have also really taken the breakfast advice to heart. I find my brain works better during the day and I’m less likely to reach for the crisps around 11 am.

Clare
October 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm

@Karen – whilst I agree with you that this is not solely an American issue, Simon is right to say this article is American-centric! Look at the language used – “Dunkin’ Donuts” (which I believe has stores in only one city in NZ, so few people here would have issues with avoiding it), “candy” (lollies), “string cheese” (??), “associate” (colleague), “appetizers” (entrees)…

I also understand why he terms it generic, as there is nothing here specific to Xero or its core market of small-to-medium business owners – the advice given applies to everyone & I felt I could have read it just about anywhere. What might have been more helpful is suggesting some strategies for keeping personal well-being a priority, rather than always secondary to the needs of the business.

Nabeel
October 10, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Can i use Xero for a group of companies in a single subscription?

Tracy Willis
October 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I love eating egg whites for breakfast. I also have a banana every day along with a small cup of coffee and a piece (or 2) of bread. Fruit, protein, and carbs to start my day and keep my focus at work.

Teresa Wolf
October 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I would love to split a meal, but I don’t want to pay extra at some of these restuarants just to do it.

Rob Sherrard
October 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I love eating out at company meals. If it happened more often I might get tired of them, but for now I just take advantage when I get to go to one.

Tommy Johnson
October 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Snack machines should be outlawed. I keep a box of quaker oat squares at the office. I love just eating them out of the box if I get a little hungry. High in fiber and low in calories. A good alternative to something out of the snack machine.

Jim Near
October 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Offices should make a rule that noone can bring in junk food around other employees. Like a non smoking workplace it should be a non junkfood workplace.

Jeff Sutherlin
October 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Lunches have historically made me sleepy. Ithought I was getting type II diabetes or something, but it was just the wrong lunches. I pack my lunch now and I feel much better thoughout the afternoon.

Dave Jenks
October 13, 2011 at 4:40 am

I have learned the hard way many times, but I just don’t go out to eat at night anymore. The meals are too big and too rich and when I get home I don’t want to lie down in bed knowing I have all that food there. I could eat lighter when I go out, but I also believe in getting my money’s worth.

Jerome Sharp
October 13, 2011 at 5:43 am

I lost the bowl of candy on my desk long ago. I found myself nibbling all the time. I can’t say I don’t misss it, but I know I don’t need it.

Harold Pladeau
October 13, 2011 at 7:44 am

I need to find the perfect food to keep me alert to snack on. I don’t want to rely on caffeine because if I don’t get it I eventually get a headache. I also don’t want to use those 5 hour energy things either or energy drinks. Those things would put me in the poor house if I relied on them each day.

Lisa DeChiara
October 13, 2011 at 8:25 am

that’s me! I work so hard at home not to each the junk, but as soon as someone brings in a box of doughnuts to work, I’m drawn to them like a magnet. They taste great, but I regret it as soon as I swallow the last bite. If only I could purge on command.;)

Janet Orion
October 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Our business has a fridge that always has fruit and veggies. We don’t have any sodas in it and we only order food on Fridays. Seems to work for us.

Keith Adams
October 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm

A few year back I worked at a car rental agency that kept all of us pretty busy during the day. The owner bought pizza almost everyday and always had packages of cookies or things laying out in the breakroom. He even sprung for coffee runs from the local donut shop. He was a great boss, but to think of the crap I continued to put in my body (just because it was there and I didn’t pay for it) makes me sick to think about it.

Nancy Stone Bourgeois
October 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I love my morning carbo load. I grew up on it as a kid. Pancakes, waffles, muffins, cinnamon rolls…you know, the good stuff. Lots of sugar and dough. I was never into the eggs and bacon, jus the sweets. Of course at my age now (40’s) my favorite breakfasts don’t leave me feeling as good as they did when I was younger. Maybe I should start heading the advice of the “experts?”

Lucy Bottorff
October 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Why is it so many times what is brought in to share at work is horrible for you? Is it because it’s just cheaper or that it’s just easier? I work at a school and it seams all of the rewards for teachers and students are either pizza, donuts, or ice cream. If schools could get kids into better eating habbits it might last into adulthood when they are working at their own small business. Who knows what kind of productivity could happen then.

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