What food and drink makes for a great workshop?
We are what we eat!
Our friend and collaborator Rachel Davies explains the secrets of nutrition for workshops
What would you think if you turned up to a workshop and on a table for everyone to snack on were bowlfuls of tasty roasted nuts, warm edamame, salted fava beans, popcorn, plain yoghurt bowls with berries, nuts and seeds, lots of fruit and dark chocolate to snack on?
And how would you feel after lunch - a table covered in platters of whole grains, roasted vegetables, avocados, prepared raw veggies and salad leaves, some smoked mackerel or roasted chicken, hard-boiled eggs, a lovely dressing with extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds to sprinkle on top, nut butter, and rye bread with creamy butter on the side? You’d have the option to put together a colourful, nutritious plate of food that will leave you feeling satisfied and with energy to give your all, even after lunch.
What we eat affects our energy in ways that it’s often hard to decipher, yet sometimes it’s more obvious.
I’ve never had a sweet tooth, so the first time that I experienced the highs and lows of serious sugar consumption was when I was training in patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu. We baked and made beautiful sweet things, and we would snack on the cake trimmings and bits of hardened caramel. I loved the baking, but by the end of each class I felt thirsty, tired, sick and irritable, I was hungry too, and my head hurt - everything that you may recognise from filling up on sugar and then crashing. I learnt that snacking on sugar didn’t feel good, and I didn’t like it.
Earlier this year I drastically reduced the amount of sugar I eat, not so much a new years resolution but something that just happened. I noticed that the less sugar I had, the more stable my energy was. The truth is that reducing sugar has meant that when I do eat something sweet, I feel like my body is vibrating with an energy that feels disconcerting, like having too many coffees. I’ve been trying to eat better too, and I feel less hungry and have more sustained and stable energy levels. It’s been interesting to notice the effects of food on my body, and these days whenever I go off course, I really notice in a way that I didn’t before.
I’m sharing this because it’s a lesson for us all. I’ve seen that when we or our teams, colleagues or clients need to concentrate for long periods of time, these nutritional lessons often go out of the window. At meetings and in the workplace, the biscuits, cakes, chocolates and sweets come out, because we’ve learnt that sugar is fun, generous, or a treat, so we eat it together and we wonder why we crash.
Workshops are a key place where we need everybody to give the best that they can give, often concentrating for long periods of time. Many factors contribute to that, and a key one is good nutrition. But often people forget to plan around this. The classic workshop lunch of bad bread in sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, and sweet drinks not only contributes to the post-lunch slump. It creates the slump, and we can do much better.
If we aren’t putting good things in, it’s much harder to get the output that we are looking for. What we need to offer are really great quality proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats, and food that leaves people with sustained energy, and feeling nurtured and looked after, rather than deprived. This isn’t meant to be virtuous, it is nourishing.
I put together some food inspiration for Curve's Workshop Workshop to help put this into practice, from the snacks that I mentioned before, to nutritious lunch ideas that will keep everyone’s energy up so they can give their best.
Drinks are also really important, and something that is easy to overlook. I’m sure you’ve guessed that I’m no fizzy drink advocate, but even bottomless coffee can take its toll on our output. I would be delighted to turn up to a workshop and be offered something different. How about a smoothie or fresh juice, or a full-of-goodness shot for everyone to drink together to start the day. Lemon, turmeric, apple and ginger - cheers! And plenty of water helps our concentration. Studies show that being dehydrated by even 1% lowers our mood and attention span, so if you’re in charge of the drinks, make sure to help keep everyone hydrated.
I know that this can seem far from what many workplaces provide, but more and more companies are focussing in on wellness. With companies offering wellness programmes to their employees, and plenty of forward-thinking workplaces offering a monthly stipend to spend on wellness, this isn’t a trend that is going away.
We all know that workshops cost money to run, and I accept that making these nutritional changes will probably add to your budget. However, the price of a roomful of people looking back at you through half-closed eyes as they digest their lunch is much higher, and one that we definitely don’t need to pay.
Rachel Davies is a chef, cookery teacher and founder of Rachel’s Kitchen. She also teaches our Workshop Workshop and loves to inspire people.