My Executive


    Oct 25, 2013

    Eat right to stave off the 'Zzz monster'

    IN OUR quest to get more work done during the day, many of us might not give much thought to what we eat for lunch.

    According to the results of the National Nutrition Survey 2010, the proportion of Singaporeans who skipped lunch rose from 2.9 per cent in 2004 to 4.5 per cent in 2010. The survey also found that seven out of 10 adults have lunch away from home.

    Skipping lunch may give you a little more time to clear your work, but a good lunch would make you feel more energetic and focused - important factors that would help you work efficiently and be more productive.

    Here's what you can do to have a good lunch.


    Concerned about the "Zzz monster" creeping up on you after lunch? Then you need to choose the right foods and eat the right portions.

    Energy is needed to digest food, and having a large meal and food high in fat stress your digestive system. This would make you feel tired and sleepy, thus affecting your performance at work.

    Studies have shown that lunch sizes have an impact on performance efficiency and mood; people who have a larger lunch than normal make more errors.

    However, it is just as important to eat enough, as eating too little can result in a higher intake of calories due to snacking later on.


    Use the plate concept to help you control what you eat. Half your plate should contain non-starchy vegetables, and the other half should be equally divided between starch/carbohydrates and protein. Here are some ideas:

    Group 1: Carbohydrates

    Bread, cereal, rice, noodles or pasta

    Group 2: Vegetables

    Any kind, such as tomato, cucumber, lettuce, carrot or mushroom; cooked or in salad

    Group 3: Fruit

    One portion of an apple, orange, banana or a slice of papaya, pineapple, honeydew or watermelon

    Group 4: Protein

    Fish, lean meat, grilled chicken without skin, eggs, baked beans or legumes

    When applying the plate concept, pay attention to what you put in the various sections as well.

    Choose foods that provide sustained energy release, such as wholegrain bread and cereal, brown or unpolished rice, legumes (beans, chickpeas or soya beans), sweet potato, vegetables and fruit. These foods are high in fibre, which are digested and absorbed more slowly, hence releasing energy gradually to last you through the day.

    In comparison, having a high-starch, high-sugar meal raises your blood sugar quickly, but it also dips soon after that, leaving you tired.

    A good rule of thumb is that your carbohydrate serving should be about the size of a fist. Eating more may cause an immediate surge of energy, followed by a blood-sugar slump.

    Controlling your carbohydrate intake would help ensure that you do not slip into a "food coma" after lunch.


    Controlling your lunch may help you stay awake, but it may also leave you wanting more before the next meal.

    Smart snacking can boost your metabolism and prevent you from overeating at your next meal.

    It is a good idea to have one healthy, small snack about four hours after a meal. This could help you stay awake and give you energy to last you till the next meal.

    However, keep away from high-fat and sugary foods that are packed with calories. Choose snacks that provide sustained energy release, such as low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, reduced-sugar soya milk, a cup of corn (sans butter), a piece of fruit or a handful of dry-roasted nuts.

    Keeping the "Zzz monster" at bay during office hours is not that difficult. All you need to do is pay more attention to nutrition when making food choices, as what you eat affects your health, mood and work efficiency.

    The writer is a senior dietitian with National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.