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In order to be our best mama boss selves, we need to give our bodies the right fuel to power through our busy days. We asked Nicole Centeno, founder of Splendid Spoon, to share her tips for using plant-based nutrition to empower success.

Like most moms, I am incredibly busy. Every day is a challenge: running a business, being a good role model for my two boys, co-parenting effectively with their dad, and building a relationship with my boyfriend all require a great deal of effort. These are worthy challenges and I’m incredibly grateful for them, but keeping myself in good fighting condition (because really, it can be a battle!) has to be a top priority.

To meet my daily challenges, both my body and mind need to be strong and resilient. Building strength and resilience requires more than just a grocery list of organic ingredients and a recipe for a green smoothie. Instead, I rely on a steady routine that I can return to over and over, even if the office is imploding, my kids are losing their shit over a lost Batman toy, and I don’t have any clean underwear left.

One of the biggest misconceptions in wellness is that you need to eat certain ingredients, or follow certain eating ‘rules’ to be healthy and productive. Really, the specific micronutrients don’t matter intensely unless you are a high-performance athlete or you have a specific health condition. I take those “the-superfood-that-will-make-you-live-forever” or “the-10-reasons-coconut-oil-will-kill-you” articles with a very generous grain of salt. What does matter is that most of what you are eating is real, whole food, and that you are getting an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Since over 50% of my meals are eaten at work, I really make them count.

During the week I eat a plant-based meal in the morning and a plant-based meal in the afternoon. Dinners are more variable and that’s completely fine because I’ve already covered two-thirds of my meals at work. That’s it. That’s my routine. Plus lots of water, whole fruit, and caffeine-free tea in between. Here’s how I do it:

Plant-based breakfast.

Overall, eating mostly plants during the day keeps me really alert. I don’t drink coffee so my energy is pretty even for the day, which means I really notice the things that keep me going or drag me down. Sugar drags me down (because it amps me up and then I crash) and dairy and meat create a digestive drag for me as well. Another reason to eat more plants – it’s literally the only health-advice that is indisputable. Eat more vegetables and you reduce your likelihood for every major disease out there. My favorite plant-based breakfasts are a big pile of coconut yogurt with nuts, flaxseeds, and grated apple, a Splendid Spoon smoothie, steel cut oats with turmeric, cinnamon, and dried fruit, or brown rice with greens, ginger and warm broth.

Plant-based lunch.

Much like breakfast, eating mostly plants in the middle of my day keeps me alert. The stakes are higher at lunchtime, though, because I’m really humming along in my routine. I am a big believer in staying focused because our brains’ cognitive abilities diminish with every additional task placed on them, and every time we ‘switch gears’ to a different task. The simple act of thinking about what I need to eat for lunch is unproductive, and reduces my cognitive ability. Consider the emotional turmoil many of us encounter when we realize we haven’t eaten at 3pm and don’t have a plan. My routine helps me to avoid this productivity-killing event by planning to eat whole, plant-based foods. My favorite lunches are vegan KiBimBap rolls (a mix of rice, seaweed, fermented and fresh veggies) from Whole Foods or Splendid Spoon soups.

Hydration.

Our bodies need water to fulfill all their basic needs, which is why we need to hydrate often. The brain is also so rich in nerve cells that it is actually the most energy-demanding organ in the body. Decision-making and strategy development puts extra pressure on the brain and will often trigger a hunger response as it seeks more fuel, even if we have just eaten. Hydrating will keep your digestive system humming along so your food can break down into usable energy for your brain. It’s a great habit to drink lots of water or tea within the first hour after a meal to do this.

Snacks.

Mostly whole fruit, sometimes popcorn, sometimes a really yummy pastry from my favorite bake shop, Butler, in Williamsburg.

Dinner.

Varies day to day. Last night I made glass noodles with shiitakes, collard greens and ginger. Tonight I’ll probably have leftover hot dogs, tater tots and carrot sticks with my kids. I rarely have dessert and I usually have a big glass of water or mug of tea before bedtime.

Everyone is going to have a slightly different routine, but if yours is centered on more veggies, more hydration, and simplicity, you have the foundation for a less stressful, more productive work week and a stronger, more resilient body and mind.

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