If you are like most people, work has come to dominate many of your waking hours. The demands of many careers and jobs continue to increase, reducing the time we take to care of other aspects of our lives. Time with loved ones can suffer and time to eat properly is often sacrificed in the name of work. When we do take time to nourish our bodies, many people find it easier to eat a healthy breakfast and dinner than a healthy lunch on workdays.
Here are six tips for eating healthier while on the job.
1) Avoid the “snack” lunch: Meals should never come out of a vending machine or a convenience store cooler. A bag of chips, a cola and a chocolate bar may seem like the only option but the amount of time you save by jamming coins into a machine or dashing to the nearest 7- Eleven will be offset many times over by your lack of productivity after consuming such a nutrient-deficient, chemical-laden meal. The high amounts of sugar alone will not only suppress your immune system for many hours, it will likely increase anxiety and cause you fatigue for most of your afternoon and evening.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that a higher percentage of calories from added sugar is associated with a significantly increased risk of death linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD). In addition, regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with elevated CVD mortality.The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also acknowledged the numerous randomized clinical trials and epidemiologic studies demonstrating that consumption of higher amounts of added sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, tend to cause weight gain and contribute to a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemias (abnormal amount of fat and/or cholesterol in the blood) and hypertension.
2) Avoid fast food: The drive-thru windows of every fast food chain as well as food courts across the country are packed with workers looking for a quick food fix. Unfortunately, the “healthy choices” at most of these locations don’t live up to the promotional promises. Check out my blogs on Wendy’s black bean burger and McDonalds’ salads for more information.
3) Bring your lunch: You can actually make a delicious, nutritious lunch in less time than it takes to get in your car and wait in the drive-thru. All it takes is a bit of advanced planning and creativity. Look at what you are making for dinner and prepare extra to add to your lunch meal. For example, a side dish of brown rice or quinoa from dinner can become the base of a mixed vegetable or sprout salad. Fermented foods, which are incredibly delicious and rich in probiotics, make great toppings for your leftover rice or leafy greens. Check out the article “10 Probiotic-Rich Foods to Supercharge Your Diet” to learn about great fermented food options that will make your lunches unforgettable.
4) Avoid the microwave: Most people are aware of the dangers of microwaves and yet they can still be found in most office lunch rooms and cafeterias. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that the radiation emissions of microwaves are regulated to a safe level, they do acknowledge the dangers from serious thermal burns from hot containers, overheated foods, exploding liquids or the use of materials that are not microwave-safe. Equally important, most of the products heated in microwave ovens are processed, packaged and prepared foods high in sugar, sodium, synthetic additives, preservatives and colors. If you enjoy a hot meal at lunch, there are many excellent re-useable containers and thermoses that can maintain the temperature of your soup, stew, curry or other delicious meal for many hours. While you are getting ready in the morning, simply fill the container with hot water when you are ready to go, dump out the water and fill the container with your lunch.
5) Don’t eat at your desk. The likelihood of choosing an unhealthy option increases if you remain glued to your work space. Get away from the busy work and carve out a more relaxing space to enjoy your meal. When you are focused on eating, you are more conscious of when you are getting full and less likely to overeat. You’ll also be less likely to suffer indigestion from combining the stress of work with mealtime.
6) Think outside the lunchbox. There is more to lunch than sandwiches and variety is the key to success. Lunch can be oatmeal with flax seeds and blueberries. It can be kimchi or miso soup and cold green tea with lemon. You’ll eat healthier and create a lunch experience that is special and rewarding. You deserve it.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a registered nutritionist and international best-selling and 18-time published book author whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Burn Fat Fast!