If you work in an office environment, you may find yourself facing some challenges to eating a well-balanced diet each day. Here are our top tips to avoid common diet pitfalls and ideas on how to make energising food choices at work.
It may seem like an efficient use of time, but from a nutrition perspective, skipping lunch may be one of the worst things you can do. Skipping meals causes your blood glucose levels to drop, leading to poorer concentration, irritability, restlessness and low mood – none of which help you to have a productive day at work.
If skipping lunch or having a late lunch is likely, make breakfast a priority. Choose protein rich foods like eggs, baked beans, yoghurt, salmon and slow- release carbohydrate foods such as wholegrain toast or oats. These will help get you through the day, allowing you to think more clearly and help curb stomach rumbles. If you have a busy day of meetings ahead of you, keep a few snacks on hand, like a small tub of nuts or a piece of fruit that you can eat on the go. Otherwise, consider having an early lunch before your meeting and then an afternoon snack later.
It’s easy to overeat at work, especially if you graze on snacks throughout the day. To avoid eating when you are not really hungry, it’s important to get to the bottom of why you feel compelled to snack. Are you feeling stressed, hungry, thirsty, or bored? Whatever is triggering your subconscious mind to snack can be overcome by putting the following strategies into place:
• Distract yourself with a new task.
• If you’re snacking out of thirst, drink more water! Fluid in your stomach can signal greater feelings of fullness to your brain and reduce the desire to eat.
• Instead of having a bulk supply of snacks on hand, only bring 2 small snacks to work each day. This will help you avoid getting through your snacks too quickly.
• If you have the urge to snack, ask yourself to wait 15 minutes. The desire to snack will often go away all by itself.
3pm sugar cravings
It’s around that time of the day when the biscuit tin or chocolate box seem irresistible - especially when everyone else is joining in. A bit of sugar to perk you up might seem like a good idea, but this habit can expand your waistline over time. The best thing to eat mid-afternoon is something rich in protein like tinned tuna, yoghurt, nuts or cottage cheese on wholegrain crackers. If you need something sweet, fresh fruit or a small amount of dried fruit – e.g. a couple of dates, is a healthy choice.
Long client lunches
Entertaining clients often revolves around food and alcohol, which can spell trouble for your waistline. For your main course, opt for grilled meat or fish with vegetables or salad. If the meal is a 3 course affair, consider ordering 2 entrée size dishes and a side of vegetables or salad for a lighter option. You could offer to share dessert, or order a coffee or tea to finish the meal instead. Being mindful of your alcohol intake is also important; try alternating wine with sparkling water.
Finding healthy food choices when traveling for work can be a difficult task. The best options at the airport will likely be sandwiches, salads or sushi. Avoid fried foods and meal deals that include a sugary drink. Those catching morning flights might be tempted to eat breakfast twice, at home and on the plane. It’s best to check in with your body and work out if you are really hungry, or just eating again to pass the time. Great portable snacks that travel well in the air or on the road include nuts, crackers and small amounts of dried fruit.
Sitting at a desk
We know that adults who sit less throughout the day have a lower risk of early death from cardiovascular disease. However, working in an office job usually means it’s hard to avoid inactivity for a large part of the day. To balance this, try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day and interrupt prolonged sitting as often as you can. Wearing a pedometer or Fitbit to work can be a great way to check in with how active you have been throughout the day – aim for 10,000 steps.