If you work in an office setting, your diet habits probably revolve around what’s going on in your job. Meetings, projects, workplace culture, and coworkers all influence what and when you eat at work everyday. For a busy professional, these factors can make it difficult to stay focused on your healthy lifestyle. I myself have eaten cookies at 9am as a victim of office diet sabotage. Here are some ways to curb common situations and help keep you on track.
Think ahead and bring your lunch.
Sometimes bringing lunch to work can be a hassle. Having something prepared, remembering to pack it, and putting it in the refrigerator at work seems simple, but is easier said than done. Bringing your lunch from home gives you a lot more control over your diet at work. Try to cook extra dinner the night before and pack leftovers. Pre-assemble sandwiches for the workweek ahead and keep them in the fridge for easy packing in the morning. Don’t get me wrong - it IS possible to eat out in a healthy way, but it can be a lot easier (not to mention cheaper…) to keep your diet on track when bringing food from home. If you do find yourself picking up food from a restaurant or cafe, split your meal with your officemate or save half for tomorrow.
Turn lunchtime into a mental break.
Mindfulness while eating can be especially important at work. Take a moment during lunch to clear your mind, think about what you’re eating, and enjoy it. If you have the opportunity, take lunch with coworkers or find a quiet place outside. Of course it’s best not to eat at your desk, but in reality many of us do whether we want to or not. The days when a desk meal is in order, be sure to have a clean space and keep your fingers off the keyboard until you’re finished.
Keep snacks at your desk.
Midday hunger is a real thing and can throw off your focus. When hunger strikes, resorting to the vending machine or cafe is not uncommon. Worse yet, you may find yourself digging into the front desk candy dish. Whether you bring fresh ones everyday or keep a designated drawer full, keeping healthy snacks at work is a good idea. Give yourself the opportunity to eat a nourishing snack both to satisfy the hunger monster and nourish your brain with the nutrients it needs to be productive.
Try any of these easy snacks to throw in your work bag:
Toasted or flavored almonds
Apple or banana with peanut butter
Greek yogurt and blueberries
String cheese and dried fruit
Hummus and carrots or cucumbers
Pears and cottage cheese
Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Half deli or PB&J sandwich on whole wheat
If you know me, you know how passionate I am about hydration! I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep water close by. Staying hydrated is essential to keeping your body and mind in good shape for productivity. If you don’t already have a water bottle at your desk, you should. Get an insulated one to keep your drink cold and enticing to you.
Revamp your coffee game.
With the amount of coffee many of us drink (myself included), it’s best to make sure you’re drinking responsibly. Foo foo coffee drinks with whipped cream or caramel on top should be enjoyed only as a special treat. Otherwise, I fully support a daily cup of regular joe. And for that, a travel mug is a must. If your office doesn’t supply coffee, make some at home and bring it with you. Desk space willing, you may even splurge on a personal maker for the office! If you’re a cafe junkie, ask your favorite coffee shop if they’ll fill your travel mug. Some may even offer a discount for that! Even better, save some calories and cash by ordering plain old black coffee. Now - I realize that’s a tall order for some, but the daily calories from a large caramel chocolate mocha just aren’t worth it.
Remember: it’s ok to say no to donuts.
It’s important to indulge in sweets and treats sometimes, especially if you’re celebrating a special occasion with coworkers. A healthy balanced diet should include those things in moderation. However, when there are too many retirement celebrations and birthday parties in the same week, it’s absolutely ok to say “no” when offered cake or ice cream. I won’t act like that’s easy to do...a lot of us feel obligated to justify our donut refusals...but you simply don’t need to! A casual “no, thank you” should do the job just fine. If you want to indulge but keep it minimal, offer to share a donut with your office pal. It may be beneficial to keep some dark chocolates (which are a healthier chocolate choice) on hand if you have a sweet tooth that tends to get the best of you. That way you can indulge in a small nib instead of a full blown brownie or cupcake when the craving hits.
Nutrition Technique: The workplace is a challenging space to keep nutrition in check, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. Preparing for lunch ahead of time, choosing healthy snacks, and saying hydrated are essential to maximizing your performance at work. Be mindful whenever you’re eating and always remember that it’s ok to say “NO” when offered something you don’t want. You are in control of your own health!
Amy Jones, MS, RDN, LD