TORONTO - When that mid-afternoon slump hits at work, many Canadians reach for a large specialty coffee or visit the lunchroom vending machine for a salty or sweet snack to re-energize.
But they might be shocked to learn that their caffeinated drink with flavoured syrup and whipped cream is equivalent to 17 cubes of sugar, while a large coffee shop double-double is akin to tossing back eight cubes of sugar and about three pats of butter.
"The calories do exceed that of a chocolate glazed doughnut. The sugar exceeds that," says Gina Sunderland, a registered dietitian in Winnipeg.
And the problem is that instead of perking you up, it often leaves you feeling sluggish and unfocused.
"There's nothing wrong with enjoying a cup of coffee with lower-fat milk or grabbing a plain latte. It doesn't have to be a jumbo size. A latte is actually a great source of calcium," adds Sunderland, a spokeswoman for the Dietitians of Canada's annual Nutrition Month campaign in March.
Those who invest a little time and energy into making changes to eat healthier at work and school will reap the rewards of improved concentration and productivity, Sunderland says.
First, eat a nourishing breakfast.
Many Canadians report regularly skipping the morning meal, yet breakfast eaters ingest more key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, potassium and magnesium, says Sunderland.
"When people do skip breakfast they tend to ... grab those unhealthy snacks sort of mid-morning because they realize they are just so hungry," she says.
The mother of two teenage boys has lunches in the fridge and a "breakfast buffet" laid out before she goes to bed. Her family can choose from high-fibre multi-grain cereal or whole-grain bread, a fruit bowl on the counter with apples and pears or other fruit cut up in the fridge, yogurt cups, cheese sticks or hard-boiled eggs.
At work, it's easy to get caught up in a task and eat at your desk, but productivity may suffer later in the day.
"It really is worth making that effort to step away from your desk for a few minutes, take that few minutes to decompress and refocus, enjoy your lunch, think about the fact that you are eating, and then our body is able to give us that cue of satiety. And people that do that do maintain and achieve a healthier weight," she says.
For lunches out with co-workers, research the menu in advance and come up with a game plan of what to eat.
One way to perk up mid-afternoon is to stay hydrated. But reach for water. A can of regular pop has the equivalent of 10 cubes of sugar. (A cube is about 5 ml/1 tsp.)
The fast-food version of smoothies may have consumers feeling they're making a wise choice, but "one 500-ml large smoothie from a fast-food drive-thru can have about the amount of sugar of 20 chocolate cream-filled cookies," says Sunderland.
Whip up your own with plain yogurt and frozen berries, then pour it into a portable container.
"You're getting calcium, vitamin C, potassium, a lot of disease-fighting anti-oxidants. You're saving dollars and cutting all that sugar out of your diet and you'll feel better," she adds.
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