Brain function isn't enhanced by sugary snacks, says Jennifer Adler of Seattle's Passionate Nutrition. While carbohydrates can deliver a momentary burst of energy, the rebound effect leaves eaters feeling groggy and spent.
"There's a connection between productivity and what we eat," Adler says. "What we eat has a huge impact on how well we think and stay alert."
Carbohydrates commonly appear on conference break tables because-the Department of Justice's $10 brownies notwithstanding--they're cheap and meet an innate human craving. When other animals are settling in for 2 p.m. naps, white-collar workers are expected to gear up for another PowerPoint presentation. Sweets and carbs deliver a fast blood-sugar spike that reads like a wake-up call.
"Then the system really slows down," Adler says of the inevitable blood-sugar crash that follows. "Our hearts, our livers, and our kidneys take first priority, so our brains don't get the nutrition they need."
Adler would recommend a very different menu for conferences devoted to drug enforcement and violence against women. Since "protein helps keep our bodies steady," she proposes a spread of smoked salmon, Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, and black-bean dip.
Acknowledging that smoked salmon can be costly, she also offers alternatives that seem bound to please even the most tightfisted conference planner: Hard-boiled eggs and sardines.
"People often turn up their noses at sardines, but you can get them in cans with olive oil and lemon," she says.
Adler, who helps clients tackle focus-related conditions such as attention deficit disorder through dietary changes, would also save money by cutting out soda pop.