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It’s very common for your work and home obligations to prevent you from eating as healthy as you would like. Whether it’s due to your long commute or your multiple personal and work responsibilities, it’s always easier to grab the first thing available to munch on when you don’t have a plan in place.
But you’re not alone. In a recent poll by GrubHub Seamless, 30 percent of respondents said they often skip breakfast due to how busy they are, and 40 percent sometimes skip lunch, even though 60 percent of respondents were aware that skipping meals makes them less productive.
However, 77 percent of respondents said they would eat more of certain foods if they knew these foods would positively impact their mental and physical sharpness. Here are some simple tips to help you revamp your eating. While it might take a few weeks for them to feel second nature to you, it will only be a matter of time before you feel healthier, and improve your workplace productivity.
Pack Your Lunch
The two biggest benefits to packing a work lunch are that you eat healthier and you save a significant amount of money. Because it takes two to three weeks to change your habits, create a plan and give yourself the time and space to see it through.
For example, use the weekends to your advantage. Schedule a grocery-shopping trip into your Sunday errand run. Additionally, think of your shopping list beforehand and jot some ideas down so that you make the trip quick. Include a mixture of veggies, fruit, protein, and whole grains on your list, and to prevent yourself from getting bored, buy different things on a weekly basis. One week you could buy white meat turkey and the next chicken.
Jackie Vanover, a certified holistic health coach that specializes in working with professional women, says a great way to guarantee success is to prepare a week’s worth of salad on Sunday nights.
“Layer the ingredients, starting with the greens on the bottom, then the vegetables, and finally the dressing on the top,” Vanover explains. To make the salad more substantial, cook a batch of hard-boiled eggs or a few chicken breasts. She recommends that you add the dressing the morning you take the salad to your workplace.
But, don’t feel limited by your options. Retrofit’s lead registered Dietician Amy Margulies says that when you invest in functional containers, you can eat almost anything for lunch. “You can have a green lettuce salad on half of your plate, a low fat tuna salad on a quarter of your plate (made with light mayo and/or mustard and some spices), and an ounce or two of whole grain crackers,” Margulies explains.
As long as the smell isn’t very strong and your lunch isn’t too messy, feel free to bring a lunch that will satiate your preferences and keep you energized throughout the afternoon.
Avoid Snacking on the Inevitable Goodies
When it comes down to it, eating healthier at work is all about preparing. That’s why you should assume that you will hit an afternoon slump due to a busy day, a stressful meeting, or just an off day. In order to avoid snacking on the inevitable goodies that are strewn across your office, Margulies recommends including two healthy snacks along with your packed lunch.
“Produce and protein snacks keep your hunger at bay with their fiber, water and protein content, as well as keep you away from salty, carb-laden foods you should avoid,” she says. “For example, 1/4 cup of hummus with 1 cup of carrots, or a 6-ounce non fat yogurt with a piece of fresh fruit are great snacks for the mid afternoon.” Some other practical ideas are fruit and nuts, yogurt with nuts and berries, homemade baked goods, peanut butter and celery, or even dark chocolate.
Another way to stay on top of your hunger is to not wait for it to overcome you. For example, if you always find yourself hungry by 4:00pm, set an alarm for 3:45pm to remind yourself that it’s time to eat some healthy food.
Lastly, if you have a tendency to give into the peer pressure surrounding unhealthy snacks, preempt these situations as much as possible. You can still go on a vending machine run with your colleague, but just make sure you’ve eaten some nuts, dried fruit, or jerky beforehand so you’re not hungry. Or if you’re feeling brave, you can suggest going for a walk outside instead.
Don’t Skip Lunch
If you’re having a very stressful day, taking 30 minutes for lunch might seem like a luxury, and something you can’t afford. But at the end of the day, taking a breather to eat will allow you to be more productive.
Jenny Askew, a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, says that skipping lunch will make you extra hungry and set you up for overeating at the next meal.
“Skipping meals is also bad for your metabolism, blood sugar control, and cognitive function,” she adds. When you eat, your body breaks up the food, and some is stored as fat, while other parts enter the bloodstream as sugar, which provide you with energy throughout the day. So when you skip a meal, your blood sugar drops dramatically, making you feel sluggish.
Even if you can’t take a full hour or eat away from your desk, eat something that will give you enough fuel to complete your responsibilities.
Eat Away From Your Desk
When it seems like eating lunch is a stretch in itself, eating away from your desk will seem like an impossible task.
But the benefits are many. Start by recruiting a colleague to eat with you once a week. If the weather is nice, you can try eating outside and take a 10-minute walk afterward. Stepping away from your desk has the added benefits of reducing muscle tightness, fatigue, and increasing your circulation.
Toni Sicola, Health and Wellness Blogger, claims that eating at your desk sets you up for overeating. “Your brain is doing two things at once and can’t focus on the queues from your body that you’re full. As a result, you will likely overeat,” she says. “Ideally, your lunch will consist of things that can’t be grabbed out of a bag mindlessly while you peck away at your keyboard.” As a way to force the issue of stepping away from work for lunch, Sicola recommends finding foods that engage both hands.
How to Overcome Failure
It’s reasonable to assume that you will have a killer work week every so often; that you will fail to pack a lunch altogether and to avoid the vending machine during a stressful afternoon. But rather than throw in the towel and give up completely, forgive yourself and try again.
Wes Ferguson, a personal trainer, says that stress eating is inevitable and that you should accept that it will happen. “Stop making yourself more stressed by feeling guilty over it,” he recommends. “If you have one stress eating day out of five you’re still doing better the majority of the week.”
Additionally, instead of focusing over having grabbed a pizza or a burger, shift your focus as to how quickly you’re going to get back on track. How fast you overcome failure is key to your success.
As you embark on your quest to eat healthier, remember that it takes approximately 21 days to create a habit. As a result, preparing your lunch and having healthier snacks on hand will begin to feel second nature after about three weeks. As you eat foods that fuel you in a more nutritional way, you will likely see an increase in your productivity, as well as your energy. And there’s nothing more satisfying that increasing your output in today’s work environment.