Optimizing Nutrition while Working from Home
The abrupt closure of many workplaces last spring ushered in a new era of remote work for millions of employed Americans. In fact, studies show that a whopping 42-70% of employees worked from home in 2020, compared to just 5% in 2019. And while the benefits are proving to be significant, there are several key areas where many of us are still struggling, one being the connection between our home work environments and our eating habits. So today, we're taking a look at strategies we can all implement to stay track with our nutrition choices.
Our Work Space. The average adult spends 8.8 hours, 5 days a week, doing work-related activities. So it makes alot of sense for us to begin by addressing where we're spending the bulk of our days. If at all possible, we should avoid working at our kitchen tables. Not only do we subconsciously equate these areas with food already, but their proximity to food should also be considered. The old adage, 'out of sight, out of mind' really does come into play here, so by simply distancing ourselves from our kitchens can be quite impactful. If an alternative work space isn't an option, then be sure to remove 'eye level snacks' and replace with healthy options in reach. Think to yourself, 'banish the candy, bring on the fruit!'
Pre-Planned Meals and Snacks. Just like we discussed last week with regards to meal-planning in general, a little pre-planning can go a long way when it comes to taking the guesswork out of our day-to-day food choices during the work week. One of our favorite hacks is to have dedicated snack bins in our fridge and pantry. Fill them with pre-washed fruits and veggies, single-serve low-fat cheeses and yogurts, nuts and hardboiled eggs. For meal options, stock up on easy microwaveable, ready-to-eat items like oatmeal, rice with whole grains, and steamer bags of veggies and proteins. To reduce mental fatigue, dedicate one day each week to restocking and refilling your bins so they're always full and ready when you are.
Treat Mealtimes as Appointments. By scheduling our meals and snacks like we do appointments, we subconsciously differentiate the various parts of our workdays. Studies show that 62% of us eat alone at our desks, but by increasing mindfulness about what and where we're eating, it can really make a big difference. For starters, it creates a healthier mindset to eat away from our workspaces if possible- ideally not even in the same room. Take lunchtime as an opportunity to get outside or to share a meal with others- both have been proven to be good for morale AND to improve overall work performance. Be sure to eat slowly and savor each bite to truly get the benefits from this break- afterall, you've built in this time to your schedule so no need to rush! And don't be tempted to skip meals as this only increases the likelihood for strong hunger later on, which can lead to us selecting the quickest and easiest food choices rather than the healthiest.
Food is Fuel. This one isn't so much a strategy as a mindset. Let's think of our bodies as luxury cars. The food that we put in can then be categorized as either regular or premium grade fuels, with regular being mediocre food choices and premium being high quality, nutrient-dense foods. What we eat directly affects the structure and function of our brains. In order to operate at our highest levels- fully alert, focused and with productive minds and bodies- we have to consistently supply our bodies with premium fuels. So the next time you're faced with a mealtime dilemma, simply ask yourself, 'Am I fueling my workday with regular or premium grade fuel?'
Working from home has become a 'new normal' for so many of us, which means that we're all doing our best to navigate the challenges that come with it. Hopefully we've shown here that with just a little planning and shifts in habits, we don't have to lose sight of our goals just because we're not going into the office these days. And if you need help to get started, we're here and so happy to help!
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