Chances are, by the time the clock strikes 8 a.m., you’re wide awake, already mentally scrolling your to-do list for the day. Most entrepreneurs hit the ground (or ahem, old apartment floors) ready to rock whatever challenges or opportunities come our way. Even so, those daily motivational quotes, 10 minutes of meditation and workout classes only do so much to keep us focused, grounded and feeling our most functional. Though you might turn to your fifth cup of ‘Joe to push through your afternoon slump, nutritionists recommend something a bit more productivity-boosting. More than we likely give it credit, our diet can be the key to a post-3 p.m. meeting that goes well and one that well, crashes, much like our blood sugar.
“Most foods we eat are converted into glucose in our body, which provides the energy our brains. That mid afternoon slump occurs when we start to run low on glucose, making it difficult to stay focused,”
registered dietitian, Alysha Coughler says. “Usually when we experience these symptoms we reach for a quick fix like a sugar-laden baked good, granola bar, fancy frap or soda. These foods do result in a rapid burst of energy, however, it causes a crash just as quickly. Foods high in fat also make matters tough as they slow down our digestive processes and absorption of nutrients, making us tired.”
Instead of turning to those convenient afternoon snacks, it’s worth the extra effort to turn to bites that will actually aid our body’s natural rhythms, functions and responses. Coughler says the easiest way to prevent your eyes from fluttering to stay awake is to make sure you’re nomming on something that has complex carbs and protein every 3 to 4 hours. “Packing healthy snacks that keep our blood sugars stable will help you stay alert and not lose your concentration with your stomach grumbling away,” she says.
The next time you’re trying to boost your energy (or the stamina of your employees), here’s what to have handy (and why!):
While they usually hold the starring role on your brunch menu, these high-protein babies are a good-for-you food for any meal or snack. In fact, as part of a healthy diet, eggs are almost always considered a must-have. “Eggs are an amazing source of choline that enhances memory and reaction time, as well as a balanced protein source to keep you satisfied any time of day,” Coughlen says. “Pair it with some multigrain cracker and carrot sticks and you’ll be satisfied for hours.”
This all-around superstar fruit isn’t just essential for keeping away the sniffles and coughing fits when the seasons change, oranges - and other citrus fruits like grapefruit, tangerines and more - are great for keeping your energy at it’s peak level. “These are nature’s antidepressants, helping calm those anxiety and stressors of the day. They also have the added bonus of boosting your mood and energy levels through their natural sugars,” Coughler says. “Pairing them with some Greek yogurt for protein to slow the release of carbs into your body for sustained energy.”
Turkey Tomato Avocado Rolls
If you’re feeling the hunger pains that aren’t quite as sharp for a meal or as light for a simple snack, try a protein and veggie mix that’ll satisfy your cravings in a healthy way. Executive chef and founder of Food Matters NYC, Tricia Williams, says a turkey, tomato and avocado roll is a great option: “Rolling a couple slices of avocado and tomato inside a slice of organic turkey is a great, low-glycemic way to get healthy fat and proteins,” she says. “This will help with your focus and concentration.”
You’ve likely heard of the surprising nutritional benefits of chocolate, but before you reach for a Snickers bar (or steal one from your kiddo’s post-Halloween bounty), remember the sticker of health approval is only stamped on a few brands. “Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, and one piece a day does wonders for fighting off cravings and fatigue through small amounts of naturally occurring caffeine,” Coughler says. “Choose one that is a minimum of 70 percent cocoa. Pair it with a one tbsp of peanut butter or nut butter of choice for a bit more staying power so you don’t get hungry shortly after.”
If you struggle with finding a snack that actually lasts longer than a hot second and doesn’t have you reaching for a second (or third or fourth…) handful, consider focusing on a food choice that literally expands in your stomach. It’s not magic, it’s naturally-occurring chia seeds. “Chia pudding is a great way to feel full and satisfied as chia can hold up to 12 times their weight in water, not to mention their high Omega profile,” Williams explains. “Be sure to look for a chia that is sweetened with maple or Stevia though, not white sugar.”
Regardless if you struggle with digestion issues, a sensitive stomach or you just like the way it smells, mint is a practical choice after each meal. “Mint has a unique power to give you a perk while fighting off your stresses,” Coughlen explains. “It also has the bonus power of aiding digestion when your lunch doesn't sit well so you aren’t distracted by gurgling of digestive processes.”
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.