7 Ways to Eat Healthy When Back at Work
In theory, eating healthy food every day at the work or home office should be simple. Pack a healthy lunch and away you go. However, in reality it may not be that easy. Work stress and/or access to unhealthy foods, can easily sabotage our healthy eating habits and impact blood glucose levels. The good news is that there are ways to get around it. Here are 7 ways to make your workday healthy, when the fridge is in full view.
1. Pack a healthy lunchbox
Preparing lunches for the week is one of the first ways to keep on track with health eating and saving money. There will also be less temptation to buy takeaway when you have food on hand. Eating a substantial lunch can also reduce the likelihood of grazing all day on snacks. Planning a healthy lunch is all about including the right type and amount of macronutrients. If you get stuck for new lunch ideas, there are plenty of diabetes recipes available, some with as little as 4 ingredients.
4 steps to planning a healthy lunch:
- Choose a low GI starchy carb for a sustained energy and dietary fibre e.g., wholegrain bread, rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa, couscous, sweet potato or legumes e.g., chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans
- Choose a lean protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer e.g., red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu or cheese
- Choose a generous amount of vegetables or salad for essential vitamins and minerals
- Add some good fats such of avocado, nuts, seeds, tahini or olive oil.
2. Avoid Skipping Meals
We all get busy, so it is easy to keep ploughing through work only to discover it is mid-afternoon and your tummy is rumbling. Our bodies are programmed to survive so if we skip a meal and get too hungry, we will eat like food is scarce at the next meal. Being without food for long periods of time can also deplete our energy making it more difficult to refrain from eating unhealthy choices.
Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be above a healthy weight.i While the reason for this is not completely understood, we do know is that breakfast fills you up. When we not feeling hungry, we are less likely to graze on high energy, high fat foods throughout the day.
3. Swap the Biscuit Tine for Healthy Snacks
It may not seem so easy to refrain from snacking on biscuits or other treats if they are easily accessible and/or if work colleagues are munching on them near you! You could suggest placing biscuits or other treats away in the kitchen cupboard so it is out of sight, out of mind. Alternatively, you could establish a ‘healthy eating workplace environment’ and replace the biscuit tin with a fruit bowl. This idea may not be well received with every colleague!
What you do have complete control of however, are the types of snacks you purchase and bring to work. Pack your office drawer and fridge with healthy, 'grab and go' snacks that are nutritious, naturally lower in calories and cheaper. Healthy snacks will keep you satisfied until the next meal and prevent 3 o’clockitis when the biscuit tin is calling! There are plenty of nutrient dense low GI foods in Australian supermarkets e.g., seasonal fruit, Greek/natural style yoghurt, nuts, seeds and wholegrain crackers with hummus, 100% nut spread or reduced fat cheese.
4. Keep Well Hydrated
Keep in mind that we may not be hungry but thirsty and need to rehydrate. Keeping well hydrated can reduce the likelihood of eating more than your body needs. Studies show that even being mildly dehydrated (fluid loss of 1-3%) can affect energy levels, mood memory and brain performance.iii iv
How much water we need depends on a range of factors. These include temperature and physical activity, however on average an adult should drink at a minimum of 2.1 Litres (8 cups) per day.v If you are finding it hard to get enough water, keep a water bottle handy at your desk and in meetings. Try adding some natural favour to liven up the taste e.g., lemon or strawberry slices and mint sprigs to a jug.
5. Set a Snack Reminder
To help you establish a structured eating routine, set reminder in your work calendar for lunch and mid meals. Having a structure around eating may help with making healthier choices.
6. Tune Into Your Hunger
We eat for many different reasons, and many of them are not due to hunger. Feeling thirsty, stressed, bored, happy or sad can often influence our food and beverage choices. Do your eating habits change when you are at work especially if you are stressed? If yes, next time you feel like eating, ask yourself, 'is it physical hunger or psychological hunger?' Do I have hunger pangs or and I feeling bored or stressed?
Becoming more aware of our eating habits can help us to work out what triggers eating when we are not hungry. This is called mindful or practicing mindful eating. Studies show that mindfulness-based interventions may be useful for improving eating behaviours like binge eating and emotional eating. Mindful eating practices can help you us respond more reflectively in a situation when we are about to eat. Interrupting the automatic responses might help eating to be more intuitive and therefore opt for healthy foods to nourish the body.
Trusting our body when we are physically hungry is not always easy especially if kitchen is easily accessible! Using a hunger scale is another way to help us learn the difference between physical and psychological hunger.
When you feel like you want to eat, try rating your hunger on a scale of one to 10, where one is starving and 10 is so full you feel sick. A rating of five or six means you are comfortable, neither too hungry nor too full. It is best to eat when your hunger is about a three to four and stop eating when you get to five or six out of ten.
7. Indulge Occasionally
Health eating for diabetes still means including a treat now and again. An occasional treat will also make you feel less deprived and less likely to rebel and overeat! About once a week, allow yourself that little treat e.g., lunch out with colleagues or cake and coffee with a friend.
Final Message about Eating Healthy at Work
Even if the work fridge is in full view, there are ways to ensure you keep to a healthy eating plan for optimal diabetes management. Eating regular, planned meals and snacks plus keeping well hydrated will keep you satisfied and reduce the temptation to opt for unhealthy choices.