Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

June 1, 2017


4 Food Enemies Affecting Work Performance

Article revised on 25 May 2018

Certain foods can actually interfere with performance at work, but you can help your employees make smart food choices by avoiding these food enemies. Here are 4 of the worst offenders.

Enemy No. 1: Meals high in fat

We already know that poutine is far from being a healthy meal option. It may be high in calories (and therefore in food energy!), but after eating poutine, you feel heavy, the meal takes a long time to digest, and you may even feel like taking a nap. That is what generally happens with meals that are too rich and high in fat. They have a longer digestion time, and that takes up a lot of energy during the hours following the meal. In terms of food enemies for work performance, high-in-fat, hard-to-digest meals is definitely the worst one.


Offer light meals with the recommended balanced plate proportions:

Assiette équilibrée

Enemy No. 2: Too much caffeine

Caffeine certainly can help us get our day off to a good start or give us a little boost in the early afternoon. However, caffeine can go from being a friend to an enemy if you consume too much of it. We’re talking headaches, palpitations, tremors, irritability, trouble sleeping… It’s best to limit your daily intake to 400 mg or less.

Caffeine content of certain beverages

Per 1-cup (240-ml) serving,
unless indicated otherwise
Caffeine content (mg)
Filtered coffee180
Perked coffee120
Brewed coffee135
Instant coffee75 to 105
Short espresso (⅛ cup or 30 ml)40
Black tea50
Green tea30
Regular or diet cola (1 355-ml can)35 to 50
Energy drink (1 591-ml container or less)50 to 180


Swap your filter coffee maker or percolator for a machine that can make espresso or other types of coffee in small amounts. The same thing goes for cups! Consider offering a selection of teas and decaf coffee and limiting the sweetened cola and energy drinks available.

Enemy No. 3: Working while eating

Many people think they can do more with their time if they eat while working on their computer, tablet or smart phone. Yet, studies have clearly shown that eating in front of a screen contributes to overeating. Why? Because when our concentration is elsewhere, we eat mechanically, without paying attention to fullness cues. Since a drop in energy always follows a meal, eating more than our body needs, thinking that we can use that time to get a little ahead in our work, does not have the desired effect!


Experts agree that taking regular breaks promotes productivity, so it is better to encourage employees to enjoy a true meal break. The brain break will help them get back to work feeling energized, and they won’t feel as tired as they would after a big meal.

Enemy No. 4: Hunger

Hunger is a force to be reckoned with! Needing energy, your body sends your brain a message that is hard to ignore! You may start to feel peckish or uncomfortable, have difficulty concentrating, feel drowsy, etc. It’s not easy to reach your full potential when you’re hungry. You’d be better off if you had a little something to eat. Just make sure your snack is a nutritious one. If your stomach starts to rumble a little while after you have a meal or snack, that’s a cue that you need to make more nutritious food choices.


A hunger-satisfying meal must provide at least 15 g of protein and be a good source of fibre (which, of course, you can get with vegetables). Follow the balanced plate recommendations to ensure you get enough of these nutrients. To curb hunger at snack time, simply combine two food groups. Here are some winning combinations that could be available in vending machines or at the cafeteria:

  • Hummus + raw veggies
  • Whole grain crackers + piece of cheese
  • Fortified soy beverage + banana
  • Almonds + grapes
  • Whole wheat toast + nut butter
  • Yogourt + fruit salad


  • Fruits and vegetables (FIBRE)
  • Whole grain products (FIBRE)
  • Milk or milk alternatives (PROTEIN)
  • Meat or meat alternatives (PROTEIN)


Need some health tips?

Find out about everything the VIVA Workplace Health and Wellness Program has to offer you.



  • Catherine Desforges, Nutritionist

Want to encourage your employees to adopt healthy lifestyle habits?

Discover the VIVA workplace health and wellness program.

Visit our website

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