Working adults spend most of their time away from home at work. Keeping a healthy environment at the office is important for health and for weight goals, but for many people the work place can be a struggle to maintain healthy eating habits.
There are some simple, practical steps you can take to create an environment that encourages healthy eating at work.
It may be a struggle to eat something before you head out the door in the morning. However, making extra time to have breakfast, even if it’s as little as 5 minutes, may be worth the extra hassle because of the health benefits associated with eating breakfast.
According to a 2003 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, skipping breakfast was associated with increased risk for obesity. Researchers analyzed data from about 500 participants in regards to eating habits and obesity rates. They found people who skipped breakfast were statistically more likely to be obese.
One suggestion for why this happens is that missing a meal in the morning may make you eat more later in the day, thus over compensating your calorie intake. Eating breakfast can help stabilize blood sugar levels in the morning and may help you make better food choices at work throughout the day.
Don’t have any time for breakfast? Take a few minutes the night before to prepare breakfast.
Examples for a healthy breakfast include:
- Plain oatmeal with fruit and ground cinnamon
- Smoothie made with frozen/fresh fruit, green leafy veggies and dairy or dairy alternative milk
- Egg burrito with scrambled eggs, veggies, cheese and salsa wrapped in a whole grain tortilla
- Yogurt with nuts and dried fruit
Breakfast can be as simple as grabbing a banana and a bar on your way out the door. Keep in mind when planning breakfast to include a protein source in the morning, as some research suggests this can extra help with regulating food intake later in the day.
See also these articles about breakfast:
- What to eat for breakfast if you want to lose weight
- Is McDonald’s breakfast bad for you?
- Breakfast Mistakes that Can Cause Weight Gain
Pack you meals
The 2003 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology also concluded eating meals out was associated with increased risk of obesity. Meals from restaurants or quick stop markets are often higher in calories than meals made from home.
Avoid the temptation to go out for lunch on a consistent basis. You will save money and be healthier by packing your own meals.
Don’t have time? Pack your lunch the night before, possibly while you are also getting your breakfast laid out for the next day.
Combining a lean protein, healthy fats and fiber in a meal can best stabilize blood sugar levels. Eating a healthy lunch can help you combat the urge to indulge on treats in the office or around other co-workers.
Schedule breaks for you to get up and walk around throughout the day, even if it’s just for a minute or two. Research suggests sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to health.
Sitting doesn’t burn that many calories. Increase calorie expenditure by taking short walks, jumping jacks, body weight lunges/squats or walking up and down flights of stairs every hour or two (ideally) for 5-10 minutes.
If that is unrealistic, start somewhere, even if it’s a couple minute break every 2-3 hours. Something is better than nothing.
Moving more during the day could also motivate you to eat healthier through the day. If the urge comes to dip into the office candy dish, go for a walk around the office instead.
Out of sight, out of mind
One reason eating healthy at the office is difficult is because of the many sweets and treats around co-workers desks and in the break room. Instead of letting these things sabotage your weight loss efforts, alter the environment so the healthier option is easiest.
Move candy dishes and jars out of plain sight and on a higher shelf or in a drawer. It seems too simple, but this little move can make a big difference on calorie intake.
Dr. Brian Wansink from Cornell University has done much research on the topic of our food environment, and he has shown through multiple research studies something as simple as moving candy dishes out of plain sight can help with weight loss and drastically cutting calories.
Store the right snacks
Have healthy snacks in an office drawer, so when hunger or snack cravings hit you are prepared with options that aren’t sugar laden.
Store healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit or whole grain crackers so you can munch on them when needed instead of sweets in the break room.
If you have healthy options available, you will be less likely to over indulge in unhealthy foods, especially if the healthier options are in easy to see areas.
Healthy eating at the office can be easy, if some adjustments are made in your environment. Eating a healthy breakfast can lead to better food choices throughout the day, and bringing your lunch with you can be a simple solution to cutting out extra calories during the day.
Move candy dishes out of plain sight, and avoid the break room if you know there are tempting treats in there. Make time in your day to move more, even if it’s just a few minutes when you can.
References used in this article