Remember your new year’s resolution of getting fit? Well, it’s not just about doing a hundred pushups without breaking a sweat or finally getting those washboard abs. A big part of it is eating healthy. We’re familiar with the saying, “garbage in, garbage out”. This applies no less true to what we put inside our bodies when we eat. So here are a few tips on eating healthy while at work.
Know your reason for eating healthy
Are you doing this to lose weight? To have more energy when you work? To feel better in general about what you eat? As with any goal, eating healthy requires commitment. Being clear about the whys goes a long way to keeping you motivated. Even more important is that you do it because you want to, not because someone else wants you to.
Know your eating habits
What foods do you like or avoid eating? When do you eat? Do you have cravings? What triggers them? Knowing your eating habits helps you identify the patterns of how you behave when it comes to food. A large part of what, when, and how we eat is due to our conditioning. This means that we can change them if we want to.
Keep a daily food log to track what you eat, when, and more. Get detailed as you like. The log will make it easy for you to identify your eating patterns, pick out the bad habits, their triggers, and how to deal with them. It will also make you think about eating habits that might get in your way and help prepare for eventual slipups.
Develop the habit of choosing the healthy option
“Healthy” means different things to different people. So here’s a general rule of thumb:
- Eat less of these: processed/canned/packaged foods, sugary/carbonated/instant drinks. These include but are not limited to breakfast cereals, bread, crackers, pizza, pre-cooked or frozen meal packs, canned/processed meat, bacon, sausage, ham, processed dairy, processed fats and oil (margarine, mayonnaise, peanut butter) regular chips, fruit drinks, soft drinks.
- Eat more of these: fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
If you’re used to eating out and aware that your favourite lunch place does not offer healthy meals, explore other dining places that do so. One benefit of the health trend nowadays is the rise of food joints that offer healthy meals as an alternative to what we’re used to. If you find that the healthy option does not fit in your daily budget or there are no health-food joints nearby, then you’re better off with homemade, packed lunches. Preparing them can be tough at the start, but the investment in your health goes a long way.
Make enough dinner for leftovers
If you’re big on packed lunches, this is a good idea. It saves you not only time and money but encourages you to get creative with what you can do with leftovers. If you’re the kind to cook on the weekend, another handy tip is to prepare a big batch on Sunday, then store them in the fridge already portioned out for your week’s consumption.
Eat slowly, and not at your desk
Deep in deadlines, it’s tempting to just eat at your desk and continue working during your lunch break. Don’t. There’s a study which found that desks harbour 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Remember this whenever you’re tempted to do so. Stepping away from the monitor and taking a short walk or nap is also a good way to clear the head and come back refreshed to work.
Perhaps one important habit to adopt is to eat slowly. Just the simple act of eating slower than your usual leads to eating less and even losing weight by as much as 20 pounds in a year. The reason is that it takes 20 minutes from the time we start eating for our brain to signal fullness. If you eat fast, the tendency is to eat past the point of being full. Eating slowly means chewing your food better, taking the time to savour and really enjoy it, all of which lead to better digestion.
Have backup healthy snacks
There will be times when you feel the munchies. This is where snacking becomes a minefield of temptation. It’s easy to head to the nearest convenience store when you’re craving for your favourite salty chips or seeing your officemates binge on cheesy bacon pizza. Having a stash of healthy snacks at hand can help curb your cravings.
A mix and match of ready to eat fruits, raw veggies, nuts, and seeds are great for light but filling snacks. Remember to eat only when you feel truly hungry and not because you’re bored or your officemates happen to invite you.
Buddy up with a co-worker/office mate or friend
Forming the habit of eating healthy can get difficult even when you’re determined. Having a support network of like-minded family, friends or co-worker definitely helps. Buddy up with someone at work who’s also into eating healthy or at least curious to give it a try. Eating is a social act, an avenue for interaction and sharing. Having a meal with someone with whom you share an interest in healthy foods can keep you motivated.
As you transition to a healthier diet, you’ll notice small, subtle changes: you have more energy, your mood stabilizes, and you don’t feel lethargic or nauseous after lunch. As with everything else, eating healthy goes hand in hand with moderation. Start with small changes to your eating habits. Eventually eating healthy won’t feel like a chore but something that’s now part of your life.
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