Travelling usually means flipped time zones, whacky schedules, sleeping on springy hotels beds, and eating on the fly between meetings and travel. When you’re working on the road, your brain needs all the help it can get.
The snacks most readily available to you are generally packed with energy spiking sugars and fats that slow your body way down. But if you want a productive work trip, that brain of yours needs high quality fuel. So put down that energy drink and packet of chips, and listen up.
Here are OOOT’s 6 best foods (and one drink) for creativity and focus while working on the road:
Water is the only non-food item on the list, but it’s mandatory. Dehydration is known to negatively affect focus and memory, and increase brain fog and fatigue.
It’s damn hard to be creative when brain fog sets in.
Staying hydrated boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain improving your concentration, energy and mood – all good things when you’re swamped with deadlines and need to buckle down and focus.
Have your water bottle on hand and get in the habit of drinking 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day. Don’t leave it till your brain has shrivelled up like the week-old mushrooms in the fridge awaiting your return.
Pro tip: Avoid “laptop meets leaky water bottle” disasters. Make sure your water bottle lid secures properly and won’t spill in your bag. If possible, keep it upright in your bag and in a different compartment… just in case.
Breakfast options on the fly can be limited. If you’re travelling for an event or conference, you’ll likely be taunted by mini croissants and “breakfast” pastries. (Then you’re expected to concentrate for the next 8 hours. Yeah, right.)
Skip the muffins and pastries and start your day with oatmeal. Oatmeal is filling, sustains you for several hours, and the glucose stimulates your concentration and memory so you can stay focused longer.
Pro tip: If you have control over where you stay, book a hotel room with basic cooking facilities (kettle, mini fridge, microwave), or see if the hotel breakfast menu offers oatmeal. If you’re attending a meeting or event and you’re not sure what the “complimentary breakfast” entails, eat before you arrive so you’re not filling up your plate with croissants and glazed donuts.
While all raw nuts make great snacks on the road, walnuts rule when it comes to creativity and focus. They pack more antioxidants and vitamin E than other nut making your brain more alert.
Get yourself one of these neat Colibri snack bags and keep a walnut stash in your bag.
Pro tip: If walnuts aren’t available, stock up on other types of nuts. They’re great sources of plant-based omega 3s – essential for optimal brain function. Just check that the nuts are raw (meaning, not roasted, not salted, and not flavoured).
4. PUMPKIN SEEDS
The magnesium in pumpkin seeds lowers stress, while the zinc in these little guys improves your memory. They’re high in fibre, and don’t need to be refrigerated, making them ideal on-the-road snacks.
Pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan - an amino acid that your body turns into serotonin, and then melatonin. Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone, which can improve sleep quality. And when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, your brain is primed for creativity and focus.
Pro tip: Opt for raw, unflavoured, unsalted pumpkin seeds. If you don’t want to fuss with pumpkin seed shells, buy them unshelled. But you knew to do that already.
5. DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate for the win! According to preliminary science (hey, we’ll take it!) dark chocolate “could help sharpen up the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills.”
It appears that dark chocolate (not just any chocolate) assists blood circulation, combats fatigue and improves concentration for 2-3 hours. No need to demolish the whole block, but do treat yourself to a few pieces as a pick me up during the day.
Pro tip: Look for the highest percentage (70% dark or higher) and opt for organic for better quality ingredients.
Blueberries have serious street cred for their high nutritional content. These blue nuggets contain flavonoids which stimulate blood flow to the brain and improve concentration, even hours later.
They’re also anti-aging, low in calories, and high in antioxidants, fibre, vitamins C and K. So yes, you’ll maintain your good looks for longer.
Pro tip: Order them in a smoothie or pack them in your reusable container for snackmergencies.
Ready for lunch? Track down a kale salad. These dark leafy greens are premium for boosting creativity and focus. A hearty kale salad is packed with nutrients and won’t cloud you in brain fog.
“The brain depends on essential vitamins and minerals to function,” says M.D. Dave Ramsay, co-author of 50 Shades of Kale. “By these traditional measures of nutrient density, kale is at the top of the charts. A cup of raw kale has just 33 calories, yet you get a huge dose of vitamin C (134 percent RDA*), pro-vitamin A (206 percent RDA), and vitamin K (684 percent RDA)… Kale also has a lot of protein for a leafy green. Add to this iron, folate, and vitamin B6, all needed to make brain molecules like serotonin and dopamine, and it is clear that kale is brain food.” (Source: Huffington Post)
*RDA – Recommended Dietary Allowance (amount of essential nutrients needed to meet average daily nutritional needs)
Pro tip: Get your kale on at a buffet style salad bar, such as at places like Whole Foods across North America. You can build your own salad and take it to go.
FINAL TIP: DON’T GET CAUGHT OFF GUARD
Poor life choices happen when you’re at the intersection of Tired and Hungry. That’s usually when the neon-lit fast food drive thru seems like your only option. Next thing you know that burger combo has you stumbling through brain fog. Bah-bow.
Plan accordingly so you’re not caught off guard.
Research the places you’re visiting and map the nearest healthy food outlets and grocery stores to buy supplies such as fruits, veggies, and nuts.
Depending on which city you’re in, you’ll usually find the only places serving food after 10pm are fast food joints. So factor mealtimes into your days. Instead of booking back-to-back meetings, add a non-negotiable hour buffer for lunch. Worst case scenario, book a lunch or dinner meeting at a good restaurant and pick something off the menu that would make your mother proud.
If you have control over where you’re staying, opt for a room with a kitchenette, or at least a mini fridge, microwave and kettle so you can bring or buy supplies to make a basic breakfast.
And if you’re prone to getting “hangry” (hungry-angry), keep snacks in your bag and graze throughout the day. A handful of nuts or an apple can buy you precious time till your next healthy meal arrives.
A healthy mind and well-fed body will fuel your creativity and keep your focus longer. This means you get more work done in less time. If adding half an hour to track down the best foods for creativity and focus means you’re more productive throughout the day, that extra time is well worth it.
What are your healthy food hacks when working on the road?
Don’t you find it tough finding great places to work while you’re on the road? You know, with reliable Wi-Fi, delicious food, a cool atmosphere, and a table reserved just for you? Yeah, hard to come by, we know! To solve this problem, we created the OOOT app. It connects digital nomads and remote workers with awesome restaurants, bars and cafes. Just book a table through the app, show up and get to work! Neat, huh?! If this would do wonders for your on-the-road lifestyle, sign up here or get updates on Facebook or Instagram.