The Born Freelancer’s guide to healthy eating — Pt 2

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.

Last week, I started exploring the dietary pitfalls of the freelance lifestyle. Today I continue my conversation with Heather Douglas, a Registered Dietitian currently employed in-house at Loblaws supermarkets.


TBF:  Freelancers who work at home can exercise greater control over their diet and eating schedules. But what about freelancers thrown into unfamiliar offices or temporary remote locations? There’s no guarantee that there will ever be anything healthy to eat.

HD:  Try to get into the habit of bringing food to work. Don’t rely on what you will find there. You want to bring things like almonds, a super easy snack that provides lasting energy, or mixed nuts but not the salted or candied kind! Sometimes granola bars are a good option, it’s a matter of reading the label. With granola bars try to get four or five grams of fiber and no more than eight grams of sugar. Keep the saturated fats low, no more than 1.5 grams or so in a bar. Otherwise bring an ice pack, bring a lunch bag. Boiled eggs are a quick easy protein source.  Fruit is shelf stable – an apple or pear or grapes.

TBF:  A lot of what you are recommending requires a consistent effort over time. But few freelancers have completely consistent lifestyles.

HD:  If you are at home or on set or in an office long term you want to create a routine for your diet. If you are changing your work place more frequently – a day here, a day there – when you look at diet it’s all big picture. Don’t get hung up on the small details. You can let it slip for a day or so and make it up the next week, the next day. The big picture is a moderated balance, that’s what’s important with diet.



TBF:  Is fruit the best healthy snack?

HD:  An apple or orange is an OK snack. But if you don’t add a protein source you may grow hungry quicker because they don’t have a sustained lasting effect. If you add cheese or yogurt they would be a good protein source.

TBF:  So the ideal snack combines protein with carbohydrates.

HD:  Yes, but carbohydrates with a source of fiber – so not white crackers full of empty carbs which have no nutrition value to them. Empty carbs aren’t good enough – so some candy added to some almonds really isn’t a nutritious snack!

TBF: What about coffee?

HD:   There’s no real downside to being a coffee drinker in moderation. The average adult should consume less than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. That could be two or three eight ounce cups but the problem is everyone brews it differently. A brewed cup of coffee could run you 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine or more.

TBF: I’ve read that green tea is supposed to be very good for you.

 HD:  It has antioxidant content. Coffee too. That’s where there’s a lot of possible benefit from drinking coffee and tea, the antioxidant potential. That protects us from free radical damage – which I’ve heard described as like rusting on a car but inside our bodies – so it’s like a protective coating. There’s lots of other benefits too – especially for drinking coffee – like the potential reduction of risk of type 2 diabetes, potentially protection from certain cancers (although studies provide conflicting results). At the end of the day it’s all good. It’s what we add into the coffee that’s not so good. For the most part people add sugar – empty calories, we want to reduce our intake of refined sugar as much as possible – but adding milk is good. Most people don’t get their minimum daily requirement of calcium so it’s a good way to get some.  But when we get to the heavy creams that’s worth avoiding because of the saturated fat content and negative heart health results.



TBF:  Is there anything we can eat to help us deal with our work-related stress better?

HD:  People will often take Vitamin B supplements to try to deal with their stress. There’s really no clinical evidence to suggest that they will help reduce stress but you can make an argument that any nutrition will be beneficial in helping your body manage stress response. But if you’re already in a stressful situation, supplements won’t really do much to help. It comes down to being prepared for the stressful times of your work day by being well nourished and having what you need to hand and not being deficient in any nutrients. Which basically boils down to following a healthy, balanced diet on a consistent basis.

TBF: Freelancers always need to be at our creative best. Are there any known “brain foods”?

HD:  My mom used to say eat your fish, it’s brain food. Well, she was right! There is science behind it. It’s the Omega 3 fatty acids in fish. They are essential fatty acids which means we have to get it through our diet, our bodies can’t make it on its own. Most Canadians aren’t getting nearly enough. Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating two servings of fish a week. Fish is probably the best source particularly of DHA. DHA is a type of unsaturated Omega 3 fatty acid – it’s the major fatty acid in our brain, it helps with the structure of our brain, and how all those neuro-signals are sent. DHA is needed for the development and healthy functioning of the brain but there’s no science to support it would help in creativity.

Read the third and final part of this series right here.


Posted on October 26, 2012 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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