If you’ve ever tried to push through lunch to finish checking off a to-do list, you know your work performance suffers. A growling stomach, fatigue, and a headache are often the results of skipping a meal, and that means productivity likely goes out the window.
It’s a fact — the way you eat impacts the way you work, and the consequences of a poor meal or skipping a meal altogether can be even further-reaching than a mid-afternoon slump. Your productivity suffers, your mood plummets, and what’s more, your blood sugar levels can impact dmii insurance rates.
So what’s a busy professional to do? Like Grandpa used to say,
“Work your plan and plan your work!”
Making healthy nutrition choices at work boils down to preparation, and here are the best tips for how to get it done.
Take Time to Meal Prep
Don’t be intimidated when it comes to meal prepping. Social media might have you wondering if culinary school is a prerequisite or if your storage containers must all be beautiful and matching.
By all means, if aesthetically pleasing lunch boxes are your thing, go for it, but meal prepping can be as simple as looking ahead to your week’s dinners and deciding what could be taken as leftovers.
Mason jar salads, taco bowls, and stir fry are all low-hassle meals you can prep on Sunday night and enjoy throughout the workweek.
Your wallet and waistline will thank you for skipping the drive-thru every day.
Build from Breakfast
If you think powering through the workday isn’t hugely dependent on what you eat in the mornings, newsflash — it is!
Fuel up with a balanced, macronutrient meal with healthy carbs, proteins, and fats, and you will feel more alert and energized throughout your morning.
Try a fruit and nut Greek yogurt parfait (hold the granola, unless you make your own, which often has unhealthy mystery ingredients) or avocado toast with a side of eggs. These meals may feel heavy and substantial, especially if you’re used to foregoing breakfast, but that’s a good thing.
Your mood and productivity will soar after fueling up the right way, and you’ll be way less likely to mindlessly snack occasionally during the day.
Get Excited about Lunch
Packing your lunch is a great start to avoid bingeing on office snacks, but if you’ve under-packed or aren’t excited about your meal, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
Having a lunch worthy of your excitement doesn’t mean it has to take forever to prepare or cost an arm and a leg. Variety is the spice of life (chicken, rice, and broccoli five days in a row would drive anyone toward the office donuts), so mix it up.
Aim to include all the different food groups, play around with cuisine and flavors from different countries, and don’t forget condiments! They’ll completely elevate your meal, and they can easily be stored in your desk or office fridge. No need to tote them back and forth daily!
Healthy Snacks within Arm’s Reach
The convenience factor is real. When we are busy, whatever is closest and fastest often wins out when it comes to satisfying our hunger, so make sure you’re prepared. Stash your desk drawers with single servings of nuts and minimal-ingredient protein bars.
Bring in fresh fruit at the beginning of the week, and keep it in your line of sight.
If the healthier options are closer than the candy bowl down the hall, you’re likely to keep working and opt for the more nutritious snack you can reach, even if it’s purely out of convenience.
As you’ve probably heard, thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. Avoid unnecessary snacking by keeping a refillable water bottle with you at your desk throughout the day. You’ll improve your concentration, stave off hunger, and avoid the crash that comes with drinks like soda and juice.
Train yourself with a new action. The next time you feel a twinge of what you assume to be hunger, immediately reach for your water. You may find this new habit will help you avoid hundreds of calories you would have otherwise consumed.
Recruit Friends for Accountability
If you’re the only one in your cohort opting for healthier nutrition, your new choices can feel isolating.
Recruit a buddy (or several) to embark on your journey with you. Join each other at lunch, hold each other accountable throughout the day, or even take turns bringing healthy lunch options to share.
Sticking to healthier choices is much easier when you’ve got a friend beside you doing the same, and who knows, your new habits might rub off on the rest of the office.
Stick to It
Change isn’t always easy, but when the payoff is enticing enough, you find ways to make it work.
By prepping ahead of time and sticking to some tried and true tips, you’ll be able to incorporate healthy nutrition choices no matter how busy the workday gets.
Want to read more? Learn some effective ways to reduce stress.