In 1987, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched a memorable ad campaign featuring a cracked egg sizzling on a hot frying pan. The anti-drug slogan, “This is your brain on drugs,” was not soon forgotten.

In 2014, the documentary film Fed Up explored America’s obsession with sugar featuring Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine stating emphatically, “Your brain lights up with sugar just like it does with cocaine or heroin. You’re going to become an addict.”

The word is out: sugary foods hijack clear thinking, wreak havoc on blood sugar (wait, there’s more!), suppress the immune system and instigate further cravings for same. The white stuff is all too often deified in this country. That sugar has been described as an “anti-nutrient” that steals other nutrients from the body as it gets digested is a bittersweet reality check.

What if…

What if there were foods you could eat that would light your brain up naturally, keeping you feeling fueled on-the-run, as you tend to your unending to-do list and juggle the demands of the day? With a little pre-planning, eating for sustained energy can be simple, healthy and easy on the wallet.

Start a routine of eating healthy.

Anticipating a busy day?

Before leaving the house grab some fruit and nuts. Grapes, berries and walnuts are optimal for brain health and focus. For breakfast, oatmeal or eggs (vegan eggs for those plant-based eaters) which will offer balanced energy for a few hours. Try a smoothie featuring a serving or two of fruit (banana, mango and pineapple for a tropical flavor) with a couple handfuls of spinach (protein, yes!) and water (coconut water is a delicious option too.) Omega 3-rich hemp or chia seeds are a brain booster. Remember to eat protein and fiber early in the morning to keep your blood sugar on an even keel.

Skipping lunch is easy, but it’s the meal that can set you up for success the rest of the day.

A hearty soup (vegetable, minestrone or tomato) and grilled veggie or grilled chicken salad combo, a whole grain wrap with hummus and vegetables or stir-fry with chicken or tofu will fill you up while keeping you alert. Experiment and see how you feel after eating a classic burger or slice of pizza for lunch. Then, try lighter lunch fare the next day. Note the measurable difference in your energy level on consecutive afternoons.

Stock up on healthy snacks.

If you keep healthy snacks with you during the day you will be better prepared to avoid, high sugar snacks at the office which will steal your energy and concentration. Snacks might include a fruit and nut energy bars with whole food ingredients. Eat bars under 10g of sugar with a minimum of 3 grams of protein per serving. Note serving size. Half of a two serving bar is recommended. Individual squeeze packets of almond or peanut butter, sprouted pretzels, nuts, healthy bean dips with whole grain crackers/fresh vegetables, plain Greek yogurt with homemade or grain-free granola with fresh fruit or simple a crispy apple will keep synapses in the brain firing.

If you tend to skip meals in favor of coffee or energy drinks to boost productivity…

…your brain is more likely to reward your food choices after a meal including: fatty fish (salmon), whole grains (brown rice or quinoa), vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, avocado and sweet potato), fruit (especially berries), nuts (walnuts and almonds), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and tahini -sesame paste), 70% cocoa content dark chocolate, green tea and plain old water.

To stay at the top of your game all day, figure out a plan for eating real food at regular intervals to keep the brain happy. A brain that’s well-fed can help you propel you through a long day and score big on and off-the-clock.

Originally published at on October 7, 2015.

Originally published at