Claire Turnbull, Healthy Food Guide nutritionist on dietary tips for overworked small business owners.

As a small business owner myself, boy do I know what it can be like- juggling a million things! The truth is though, I couldn't do what I do and I wouldn't be able to work as hard and be as productive as I am, if I didn't look after myself and eat right!

Many SME owners don't take care of their health and their lifestyle in the first few years of start up and beyond. They skip meals, snack badly and eat takeaways a lot. What do you see?

In my work I am meeting and working with other SME owners everyday. Half of them seem to live on coffee all morning with the odd muffin in the morning, grab food where they can, most of the time making terrible food choices, hardly getting any fruits and veggies and by no means getting a good balance of nutrition. The other thing is, with the stress of a business, I see a lot of people who in tough times emotionally eat, pick endlessly at food and use alcohol as a coping mechanism.


What is your advice to people working 18 hour days who are time poor when it comes to preparing their food?

Having a plan is VITAL. My life would be a nightmare without one!

On Saturdays I take ten minutes to plan my meals and lunches for the week, write a shopping list and I pick up what I need from the supermarket or order it online if I am really time poor. It can take half an hour to set up the online shopping the first time, but it is SO worth it if you just hate food shopping and are the kind of person who just ends up having to eat on the run because you never have food in at home.

Start the day the right way - at least have a good breakfast ; cereal with milk/yoghurt and fruit, a smoothie with fruit, yoghurt and milk - add some oats too (I would take a blender to work - no excuses, you can always have a smoothie as a quick meal)

And when you make a quick healthy dinner- make double and take some for lunch
the next day.

It's important to take the time (even five minutes) to eat away from your laptop - you need to give your brain a micro rest and allow yourself to enjoy your food and then go back to working after that. Also don't forget to make sure you are getting fresh air and sunlight everyday - it helps recharge your batteries and naturally boosts your energy levels without having to grab another coffee.

What good eating can small business owners promote among their staff?

- Fruit in the staff kitchen

- Herbal teas, green teas

- Chilled water available

- If you order in lunch - make it sushi platters, salads or wholegrain sandwiches not sausage rolls and pies!

What about when you have to travel a lot for your business, how do you keep your good habits up?

Before you head away think about what you are going to be doing while you are away.

Firstly think about the journey. How many meals/snacks might you need during this time? What food will be available? If you are travelling in the car or on a plane (domestic) you can always pack a small chilly bag with sandwiches, fruit and veggies to munch on. Don't forget to pack a bottle of water too.

Next, think about what you will be doing while you are away. Where are you staying? Do they have food available at your accommodation? Where is the nearest supermarket and what food options are available nearby? Try to maintain some kind of eating routine when you are travelling so you end up getting a good balance of food over a day.

When eating out, aim to make the best choices when you can. If you are staying somewhere that breakfast is included, remember you don't have to eat everything and pig out. Look around for wholegrain sandwiches, salads and sushi where possible for lunch. At dinner meals, be sure to order salad or vegetables with your meals and avoid heavy, creamy sauces - one course in most cases is enough to eat.

Often after a stressful day people will drink a couple of glasses of wine and snack. What is your advice?

It's very easy to get into the habit - but it can affect the quality of your sleep unfortunately and add to fatigue. Find another way to unwind and then enjoy alcohol socially rather than using it as a coping mechanism. It can be a habit which is really unhelpful - and can add lots of KJ to your day too, causing weight gain. Drinking often goes hand in hand with unhealthy snacking too.

What sorts of evening meals will ensure a good night sleep?

Lean meat/chicken/fish (salmon once or twice a week) with a small amount of healthy
carbs and lots of veggies - two big handfuls. Go vegetarian a few nights a week - try lentil, chickpea, tofu recipes.

Claire Turnbull
BSc (Hons) Dietetics UK, NZ Registered Nutritionist