Sometimes it seems we spend all of our time at work, and our eating habits are influenced very much by our office environment––from the tempting vending machines to the cool new lunch spot around the block to the boss buying bagels with cream cheese every morning.
Sitting down at work for eight hours (or more) a day is also a major disadvantage to our health. It increases the likelihood of heart disease, weight gain, and other illnesses. Not to mention, when we leave work, most of us sit in the car or subway, and then sit at home. That is a lot of sitting in one day.
You can still maintain a healthy, nutritious lifestyle at your office if you plan accordingly, make small changes every day, and learn how to “work” your workday to your advantage.
(image credit: Hunter McMillan)
Use your workday structure to plan healthy eating. The great thing about being at work is having that daily structure. Although you may not know when certain stressors are coming your way, you usually know exactly when you have your lunch break and can escape for a little bit. Set that time aside for yourself to eat healthy, and mindfully, without any distractions. View your lunch time as an important meeting with yourself where you refuel and recharge.
Get a colleague on your team. It is important to have friends––and coworkers––who can support and live a healthy lifestyle with you. Announce to your colleagues that your health is important to you and tell them about your goals. Before you know it, you may have your whole office practicing healthier eating habits. Also, your boss will be thankful. After all, healthy employees are more cost-effective and productive!
Plan and pack ahead. This is key for eating healthy at work. Pack yourself a lunchbox the night before with a variety of healthy snacks that include fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you have a fridge in your office, use it to your advantage, and pack a yogurt and fresh berries. Make sure you have some options so when a craving creeps up, you have a good mix of foods to chose from. If you stay at work late, bring extra snacks. Sure, packing ahead of time may be a little time-consuming, but once you get in the habit of having healthier eating options at work, you’ll feel better and find that it was worth sacrificing some time upfront.
Keep a stash of backup snacks. In case you completely forget your lunchbox at home, or are simply rushing around, make sure you have some extra snacks at work. Some great options of non-perishable items are low-sugar protein bars and trail mixes, low-sodium beef jerky, and instant oatmeal. Keep items that are healthy, but not too tempting. You wouldn’t want to be reaching for your backup snacks simply because the temptation is there. This is your emergency stash.
Keep a clean desk. That is, clean from candy jars, cookies, and any other snacks. Studies show that snacks are more tempting when you see them, so try to keep them out of sight1. Follow these simple steps: Close the lid on that jar of candy and put it away in a cabinet. Move the box of donuts from the meeting room, to the break room. Take an alternate route to your desk to avoid that break room temptation.
Have a water bottle in sight. Staying hydrated is just as important as healthy eating, so always keep a water bottle on your desk and take breaks to sip on it. If needed, set an alarm clock to remind yourself to drink up. Other than keeping you hydrated, water will also help you feel fuller and prevent you from misjudging your feeling of thirst for hunger.
Break, move, and stretch. Every hour or so, take a few minutes to walk somewhere, whether it’s to the furthest bathroom or even for a breath of fresh air. If you don’t have anywhere to go, try to stretch at your desk, or do some squats, maybe your colleagues will join you! Finally, when you leave the office, ditch the elevator and walk down those stairs. Feeling even more active? Park your car few blocks away from the office or walk to a further subway station to get in a few extra steps on your way home.
It might take some time and dedication to manage your weight and eat healthy in an office environment, but it can be done. Stand up for your health, set some time aside to plan, and you’ll notice the difference soon enough. Don’t be surprised if your whole office follows your lead. Energy and a great mood is contagious, so cheers to a healthy office culture!
Editor’s note: Did you know May is Global Employee Health & Fitness Month? Click here to learn more.
- Sonnentag, S., Pundt, A., & Venz, L. (2017). Distal and proximal predictors of snacking at work: A daily-survey study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(2):151-162.
Guest post by Martha Dulaba, nutrition student