5 ways to ace back-to-work healthy eating
Are you back in the office again? Our experts explain how to stay on track with your work healthy eating even when you're tempted not to
If you’ve been WFH for a while, your eating habits may well have been healthier than in your office days. After all, you didn’t have to factor in a stressful commute, colleagues’ birthdays (anyone for another slice of cake?) and post-work pub trips.
In fact, one recent study found that working from home during the pandemic meant people ate more fruit and veg. But your return to office life doesn’t have to derail your good eating intentions.
Our experts share their tips on how to keep healthy.
Problem #1: Morning rush
The fix: Have a stash of nutritious breakfast options ready to go in the office so that you don’t end up popping into the nearest breakfast bar coffee shop for a pain au chocolate when you’ve got off the train.
“Keep individual porridge pots in your desk drawer to which you add hot water,” says consultant dietitian Sophie Medlin.
“Porridge is great for slow-release energy. It’s a brilliant source of soluble fibre, which is good for your gut health, including compounds called beta-glucans that are useful for immunity.”
Got some free time over the weekend? James Vickers, registered nutritionist and Vitality Expert, suggests making mini breakfast frittatas which you can box up and bring to work on a Monday.
“Mix together egg and a bit of milk and cheese, and add any veg you’ve got in the fridge. Try chopped red pepper or spinach, or you can even grate the stalks of broccoli. Divide the mixture in mini muffin tins and bake in the oven. The frittatas are delicious when eaten cold and are a healthy option when you’ve not had time for breakfast at home,” he says.
Problem #2: Screen eating
The fix: Let’s be honest, we all do it. Wolfing down a sandwich at your desk while simultaneously answering emails. But research, such as one 2020 study from the University of Sussex, shows that distracted dining can make it difficult for us to realise when we’re full. The result? You could end up eating more.
“Block out time in your calendar to eat at lunchtime and make it non-negotiable even when things feel difficult. Try to add a short walk into this time slot so that you’re getting a proper break,” says Sophie.
James adds: “Depending on what’s on offer at your place of work, make use of communal eating spaces which are away from screens and ask colleagues to join you to make lunchtimes more sociable.”
Problem #3: Lunchtime meeting overran
The fix: The trick is to plan ahead and bring in a lunch that you can eat before or straight after the meeting.
“It needs to be about convenience, so try bringing in leftovers such as vegetables from the night before and adding some protein such as a tub of hummus, falafel and a pouch of microwaveable rice,” says Sophie.
If you haven’t brought anything from home, go for filling protein options when you’re buying from a shop. “Portions of cooked chicken fillets are great and you can add these to a microwave pouch of wild rice and some spinach leaves,” says James.
Problem #4: The 3pm sugar craving
The fix: Lunch seems like a distant memory, your stomach is rumbling and you’re struggling to focus on a task. What you really need is cake. Or chocolate. Or crisps. Sound familiar?
“Most people have this problem because your blood sugar is coming down after lunch, you’re tired and you’re struggling to keep your brain active,” says Sophie.
Keep ‘strategic snacks’ to hand which contain some protein to stabilise your blood sugars for the rest of the afternoon. “Go for nuts and Greek yoghurt, or carrots with hummus, or peanut butter with apples,” she says.
The key is to eat your snack before you’re ravenous because when surrounded by food that’s ‘hyper palatable’ (hello, colleague’s birthday cake), those foods then become very hard to resist if you’re really hungry.
“If you know you’re likely to get hungry at around 4pm, have that healthy snack at 3.30pm,” says Sophie. Another bonus? The snack should keep you full until you’re home so you’re less likely to open the Deliveroo app at dinnertime.
Problem #5: Post-work pub
The fix: Ah, the joy of being able to go for a spontaneous drink with colleagues again. But how to ensure you don’t end up having a bottle of Chardonnay and a packet of crisps for your dinner?
Sophie advises: “It’s worth thinking about switching to a gin and slimline tonic or vodka and soda water in order to reduce the number of calories you’re consuming through alcohol. I don’t recommend going for white wine spritzers because you’re just likely to just drink the drink quicker.”
Meanwhile, James says it’s a good idea to plan ahead. “Try setting yourself a target, such as “I’m only going to have one or two drinks tonight.” Go for smaller sizes – half a pint of beer or a 125ml glass of wine, rather than 250ml – and alternate your drinks with a glass of water,” he adds.
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