Healthy eating habits can be hard to maintain when your office is only a short walk away from your fridge or pantry. It can be very tempting to avoid a boring work task by stopping for a snack, or opting for a quick-fix energy boost by eating some of the kids’ sugary treats that are right in front of you when you open the cupboard. Then, before you know it, the cost of working from home is a few extra kilos you really didn’t want!
Here are a few strategies to help you keep your eating on track and ensure you are getting the nutrition your body and brain needs to stay sharp and focused throughout the workday.
Keep food out of sight, out of mind
If possible, don’t work in or near the kitchen. Being close to your home’s food central makes it too easy to stop for a snack and you will end up eating more frequently than you would at the office or when you are working on the move. Keep your kitchen free of junk food or unhealthy treats during the week. If that’s not possible because it will cause anarchy with your family or flatmates, put the foods you don’t want to eat during the workday high up on the pantry shelves where you don’t see them or in large plastic containers labelled “Weekends only” or “Kids’ treats” to reinforce the idea they are not regular go-to snacks.
Have a food plan
At the beginning of the week or when you go grocery shopping, think about how many days you will be working from home and make a meal and snacks plan for those days. Then you can stock up on what you will need and you won’t be forced to grab whatever is lying around when you get hungry.
Aim to eat real food (rather than pre-packaged or processed food). You can still keep it really simple – a bag of salad, some pre-cut veges and your favourite protein (tinned tuna, some cooked chicken or a couple of boiled eggs) are all you need to whip up a delicious, healthy salad.
Have frozen and canned fruit on hand for times when a variety of fresh fruit is hard to get so you can whip up a smoothie or a fruit salad.
You can also make the most of the fact you have access to full kitchen facilities, and you don’t have to queue for the microwave, by making lunches that you wouldn’t be able to have if you were in the office. A simple omelette is a good option that provides protein and fibre – just make sure you do the prep ahead of time by grating the low-fat cheese and cutting up the vegetables in the morning before you start work. Then it will be quick to make.
Another option we love for lunch is a Poke bowl. Check out this recipe which uses Te Atatu Toasted Gluten-free Muesli. It’s a great balanced choice, offering protein, fibre and carbs, which is important to keep up your energy levels.
Another great strategy is to cook once, eat twice. When you are preparing dinner, make enough food so you have leftovers for lunch.
Plan your snacks as well. Have healthy options on hand and portion them out on a plate to eat them. Don’t eat straight out of a container or the bag or you may consume more than you need. Here are a few snack ideas:
Schedule meal and snack times in your work diary or plan for the day. That means you should be eating only when you are hungry, not when you are bored or stressed.
Make sure you do eat at the scheduled times. If you work through meal breaks, you will end up ravenously hungry and that’s when it’s too easy to choose quick, unhealthy food options.
Stop work for meal and snack breaks. If you are focused solely on what you are eating, your body and brain can send and receive the signals that tell your digestion system to begin work or let you know when you have eaten enough. It’s much easier to digest food when we are in a relaxed state, which doesn’t happen if you are scoffing your lunch while answering an email from your boss.
Keep up your water intake – if you get dehydrated you are at risk of feeling lightheaded or getting a headache. Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger so drinking regularly can help ensure you don’t eat food you don’t need. If you like soda or sparkling water, have a bottle in the fridge and add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to your glass to make it more palatable. Avoid drinking sugar-laden juices or soft drinks or drinking too much caffeine, which can you leave you feeling wired or jittery. Try a herbal tea instead of a coffee or caffeinated tea.
Take breaks that aren’t food-related
If you need some time away from your desk, get up and do some household chores such as hanging out a load of washing or emptying the dishwasher, head out for some exercise or phone a friend. This will train your brain to understand that you don’t need to eat to take a break.