For busy professionals who spend most of their day at a desk at home or in an office, eating healthy can be a challenge.
You may find yourself snacking on unhealthy foods or skipping meals altogether due to a lack of time between meetings. Studies even show that many individuals who have desk jobs struggle with obesity and/or high blood pressure (1). But when you take the time to plan ahead, you can make sure you're getting the nutrients you need.
How to Eat Healthy
Eating healthy may look slightly different for each person, but in general, it includes consuming mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. It also means limiting processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats.
Working in an office means that you’re often sitting at a desk for long periods of time. This can make it difficult to get the recommended amount of daily physical activity. Plus, the less-than-exciting nature of most office jobs can lead to unhealthy snacking or overeating, as food becomes more than a source of nourishment but a way to combat boredom and bring some variety to an otherwise mundane day.
That’s why it’s important to make an effort to eat healthy, even when you’re stuck at a desk all day. But how do you know what a healthy diet looks like?
General healthy eating guidelines:
- For meals, strive to include the three macronutrients- a lean protein (chicken, fish, tofu, legumes), a complex carbohydrate (whole grain bread, pasta, quinoa, potatoes, brown rice), and a healthy fat (avocado, eggs, olive oil, nuts).
- For snacks, strive to include protein and one other macronutrient, so either protein and healthy carb or protein and healthy fat.
- Try to include fruits and vegetables with your snacks along with protein to keep you satisfied and from mindless snacking (hard-boiled egg and apple, carrot sticks and hummus, greek yogurt with fruit, etc.)
- In general, you should try to limit your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and saturated fats.
- Consistently eat within your calorie needs
- Plant-based proteins are a great way to get the nutrients your body needs without consuming too much-saturated fat or trans-fats.
- Low-sodium options are usually healthier choices when it comes to processed foods.
- Water is always the best beverage choice. Some other good options are sparkling water, infused waters, unsweetened tea, and coffee are also good options, though it’s good to stay mindful of your caffeine intake.
Of course, these are just general guidelines, and you should ultimately eat what makes you feel good.
If you have specific dietary restrictions or allergies, this may take more thought and planning, but there are plenty of healthy options.
Why is eating healthy during the workday important?
There are a lot of things that go into staying healthy, and eating healthy is a big part of it.
Eating healthy during the workday is important because it helps to keep your energy levels up, helps you to focus better, and can even help to improve your mood.
Let's face it, when you're feeling good, you're more likely to be productive.
There are a lot of unhealthy convenience options out there, and it can be tempting to indulge in them when you're at work. But if you want to stay healthy, it's important to make the effort to eat healthy during the workday.
Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
1. Eating healthy helps you stay productive.
Yes, you're much more than what you do. But time is money, and if you feel more capable, energized, and focused while at work, you're likely to get more done.
Eating unhealthy foods can make you feel sluggish and can lead to a decrease in productivity while eating nutritious foods can help maintain your blood sugar to keep your focus and concentration.
2. Eating healthy reduces how often you get sick.
Healthy eating can help you do just that—stay healthy. Research not only shows that healthy employees are more productive but also shows that those who maintain a healthy weight take fewer sick days than those who are overweight or obese (3, 5, 6).
A healthy diet is also associated with a greatly reduced risk of chronic diseases.
3. Eating healthy can improve your mood.
Confidence, energy, and a positive outlook are all important factors in maintaining a good mood. If you're not feeling your best, it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude. Eating healthy foods helps to improve your mood by giving you the nutrients your body needs to function properly (7).
Let's face it, eating healthy isn't always easy. But if you want to stay productive, focused, and happy at work, it's worth the effort.
Try to make healthy choices when you can, and your body will thank you.
5 steps to eating healthier during the workday
There are a lot of things that can get in the way of eating healthy during the workday. Between meetings, deadlines, and general office distractions, it can be tough to make time for a healthy meal. However, with a little bit of planning, it is possible to prioritize your nutrition and stay on track with your goals.
Here are five tips to help you eat healthier during the workday:
1. Plan ahead
One of the best ways to make sure you are eating healthy during the workday is to plan ahead. This means packing a lunch or bringing healthy snacks with you to the office. Planning ahead will help you avoid unhealthy temptations and make it easier to stick to your diet (2).
Strive to include foods to support your health like fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your lunch and snacks daily.
Meal prep and meal-prep delivery are two great options to set yourself up for success in this category.
2. Time block
If you are having trouble finding time to eat a healthy lunch, try time-blocking your day. This means setting aside a specific time for lunch and making sure you stick to it. Time-blocking will help you make time for a healthy meal and make it less likely that you will skip lunch altogether.
You can also time block for eating snacks and taking a walking or stretching break.
3. Eat away from your desk
Eating at your desk can make it easy to mindlessly snack on unhealthy foods. Instead, try to eat away from your desk in a designated break area. This will help you avoid unhealthy snacks and make it more likely that you will sit down and enjoy a healthy meal.
4. Take an afternoon walk
Taking a break from work to go for a walk is a great way to boost your energy and mood. Not to mention, it can also help with your digestion. If possible, try to take a walk every afternoon to help you stay on track with your diet.
One study found that walking 30 minutes a day most days of the week with as little as 5-minute increments resulted in improved aerobic fitness, improved cardiovascular health, including lower blood pressure, and improved body composition (4).
5. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is essential for maintaining a healthy weight. Not to mention, it can also help you stay energized and focused throughout the day. Make sure to drink at least eight glasses of water a day to stay properly hydrated.