Eating a healthier office lunch gives you more energy both for your work and your ability to get active during the workday. Eating a healthy lunch at work is often difficult, as you have limited time and food options available. You’ll need to plan ahead so that when you’re busy and under stress, like at work, you won’t reach for whatever is quickest. Office snacks are often loaded with sugar and fat, as someone is more likely to bring a box of donuts to share than veggie sticks and dip. A healthy lunch and light, low-calorie snacks actually keep you more productive so that you get more done and don’t suffer a crash or food coma.
Fortunately, with a bit of planning and some easy-to-remember tips, you can eat a better lunch that will get you moving all day long!
We’ve all been there. Often times, no matter how motivated we are to reach our health and personal step goals, life gets in the way. This is true whether we’re at work or at home, but it’s particularly tough when we’re out of our comfortable home environment. That’s why it’s important to have a “game plan” — an idea of what you’ll do if you forget your lunch, if your lunch meeting is at an incredibly unhealthy (but delicious) buffet, or you’re so pressed for time that you can’t be bothered to worry how many calories are in that burger your coworker grabbed you.
Don’t rely on willpower
Think of your willpower like the battery life of your phone. You may start the day fully charged, but the roadblocks that life (and work) throw in your way each chip away some of your precious willpower. Maybe the weather was bad, there was traffic on the way in and then your boss dropped a last-minute project on you. By the time lunch rolls around, even the most iron-willed of us often just decide to grab whatever is convenient and makes us feel good.
Instead, plan ahead! Ideally, make your plan when you’re feeling rested, relaxed and in a great frame of mind. If you know there’s going to be donuts in the break room, take a healthy snack so you’ll be less tempted to grab them. Have some go-to lunch spots that have healthier options, and make the decision on dessert or that blended coffee drink ahead of time. Not only will you make better decisions, but you’ll have less stress and pressure in the moment because you already know what you’re going to do!
Keep a stash
Keep a stash of energy bars, nuts, or other healthy snacks at your desk. Even if you’re motivated to stick to healthy choices, if there’s nothing healthy around you’ll be forced to eat what’s there or go without. Being hungry at work can be very distracting, and if you’re thinking about food all morning you’re probably thinking of the most unhealthy choices you can imagine! Low-calorie, filling snacks can help tide you over and keep you focused. Just make sure that your “health food” is actually healthy! A lot of protein bars or “healthy” chips have just as many calories as candy bars or regular chips. Get to know portion sizes as well so that you’re eating the right amount!
Make sure to stock up on non-perishable snacks that will tide you over in case you forget to bring a lunch one day and don’t have time to go out. That way there’s no pressure to eat them before they go bad. Don’t forget to keep a water bottle or large cup around, because often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty instead. Try to stick to zero-calorie drinks instead of sugary soda. Tea (unsweetened) or black coffee are great options to add a bit of flavor!
You have coworkers, right? If you don’t, you probably work around or near others or have friends just a text message away. Chances are, somebody else wants to get healthy too, and accountability is the best way to stick to your goals. This helps you find healthier options when eating out, and you can share food prep or snack tips. Just be careful not to take it too far and be too preachy to those who might not share your health goals!
Prep work for the workweek
Try taking some time on Sunday to do some basic food prep for the week ahead. You don’t need to reach Pinterest-worthy levels of meal prep, but if you can chop some veggies, pre-portion some nuts, or cook some chicken breasts for the week ahead, you’ll be halfway to a healthy lunch. We’ve all had mornings where we have exactly five minutes to pull together a lunch — having some healthy basics prepped could be the difference between your throwing together a salad and saying forget it and hitting up McDonald’s at lunchtime.
You don’t have to prepare an entire lunch every day. Even taking a small salad or some cut-up fruit can help you feel more full during the day. That way, if you really have to get fast food for lunch, you can skip some of the really empty calories (fries and soda, we’re looking at you) and use what you brought instead. Many meals can also be stored in the freezer, which can prevent spoilage throughout the week.
Walk to lunch
Want to treat yourself on a Friday? We all deserve it sometimes. Next time, try to find a restaurant a mile away and get a coworker to power-walk there and back with you. You’ll get in some exercise, burn some calories, and the lunchtime mini-workout will also give you some awesome mood and focus-boosting endorphins for the rest of the day.
If you are rushing during lunch, make sure you’re dressed appropriately to exercise! You may want to take a change of shoes and a fresh shirt or sweater for the lunch walk. That way, you change back and stay sweat-free during the rest of your day. Here are some more office walking tips that can help you!
Drink a glass of water 20 minutes before lunch. Research shows that drinking water before you eat can decrease how much you consume overall. Keep a water bottle by your desk, or hit up the water cooler a little while before you’re scheduled to go to lunch. Set an alarm on your phone reminding you to drink it, if that helps.
When you do go to lunch, try drinking water and avoid liquid calories when at all possible. Sodas and sugary coffee drinks don’t make you feel full and are chock full of empty calories. Taking sips of water helps to make you feel fuller and slows your eating, so even if you do indulge yourself at lunch you may find you don’t need to finish everything.
The most important factor in staying healthy is being consistent in your habits. It’s okay to have an off day — we all do — but what’s important is that you get up the next day and try again. It’s the same as with your walking routine – everyone has days where life intervenes and we can’t get our steps in. Just pick back up and start again tomorrow! Small changes can make a huge difference, and with a little planning, you can make those changes stick and get much healthier!
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