So many of us skip meals and grab snacks because we are always working. Here’s how to eat well at work to cope with the fatigue, pressure, and stress.
In an effort to get her work done, Kendra Adams worked through lunch and gobbled Twix and KitKat bars that were free in the office break room. She often washed that down with cans of Diet Coke.
“I developed poor eating habits, especially when we had a rush job,” she said. Adams works as an accountant and usually eats this way at the office from the beginning of the year through tax time. “My eating habits in April are the worst. Our workload is high, and I want to get everything done on time.”
Adams isn’t alone. Many people put work first at the detriment of their health. “Whether we like it or not, we spend many more hours at the office during the week than we do at home,” said Allison Stowell, MS, RD, CDN, and registered dietitian for Guiding Stars, a website that helps consumers make healthy meal choices. “For most of us, that means that if we aren’t making sure we adopt healthy habits at work, we may be engaged in unhealthy eating behaviors 40 hours a week.”
Stowell explained that there are moments that can arise at work that challenge our health, and we need to develop healthier ways to cope with the fatigue, pressure, and the stress of some work environments. Eating poorly has a direct impact on how well we perform at the office because everything we eat is converted by our bodies into glucose, and we need that glucose to stay alert.
Notice how your body feels when you load up on sugar. You feel energetic for a little while, and then you’re sleepy. That’s our body’s way of telling us we’re running low on glucose. Not all foods convert to glucose as quickly as ones with empty calories. That’s why we need to make smart choices, which includes planning your meals before you get hungry.
Start by eating a good breakfast at home. It may mean getting up as little as 15 to 30 minutes earlier, but you’ll be glad you did. Breakfast can include an egg, wholegrain toast, a glass of orange juice, or even a protein shake. This way, you won’t feel hungry when you get to the office.
You can also prepare lunch in the morning or the night before. Stowell recommends eating a large salad and a lean protein or a hearty soup for lunch. She especially likes vegetable wraps because they are easy to prepare, taste good, and are healthy.
If time is an issue, think about leftovers. Make larger dinners and portion out enough for your next day’s lunch.
Once you get to the office, avoid the break room or employee kitchen if it’s full of unhealthy snacks. And don’t do without.
“A planned snack is critical for preventing that mid-afternoon crash and is key to creating excessive hunger when you get home from work,” Stowell said. “Keep healthy snacks that you bring from home in portioned bags. This way you’ll be aware of how much you’re eating, and it will reduce the potential for overeating.”
Healthy snacks include nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruit, some cheese, and whole grain crackers served with nut or seed butter. Fresh cut up celery sticks, carrots, radishes, and other easily portable vegetables are great options. A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology shows that eating vegetables and fruits are good for the body and the mind.
It’s also important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Herbal tea is a good option, too. Just don’t add sweetener.
While it’s important to remain well hydrated, you should also avoid drinking too much caffeine. It’s true that caffeinated beverages will give you a burst of energy. However, that spike is often followed by a crash that makes us feel lethargic.
By simply planning ahead and preparing meals at home, you’ll have a more productive day at the office.
July 20, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN