While there are many benefits to the continuously more popular work from home trend–including financial aspects and more–it sometimes can be difficult to stay healthy and maintain a balanced diet and exercise. However, proper nutrition is very likely to help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, and it can help you better cope with stress.
Whether you already have a good diet and are looking for more perspectives, or you’re in the search for practical advice to help you get started on the journey, this article will be for you. We’ve asked Brooke Scheller, Doctor of Clinical Nutrition and Director of Nutrition at Freshly, to give us some practical advice on health eating. Here’s what she told us:
How do you see the WFH trend caused by the pandemic affecting our eating habits?
Before the pandemic, there were those who “brown bagged” their lunch every day, but many of us relied on catered lunches, company cafeterias, or a quick run out to our favorite fast casual spot (hello, $16 salads). Between school and work, lunch has been taken care of for us for most of our lives and adapting to working from home has presented new challenges in feeding ourselves mid-day. There’s no time to get in the car or walk to a nearby café, and forget about trying to cook in between Zoom meetings. In turn, we end up simply “forgetting” to eat or scrounging together a ‘meal’ using whatever we can quickly get our hands on — but we often make poor decisions when we rely on convenience, which has adverse effects.
Do you have any advice regarding scheduling your meals?
My general rule of thumb is that you should be eating every 3-4 hours to maintain blood sugar levels. More importantly, having lunch on a similar schedule can be helpful to support our blood sugar and our body’s natural stress response. Generally between 12-1pm would be an appropriate time to have lunch. Waiting too long between meals can also cause low blood sugar, which makes us more likely to grab foods that give us quick (but short lived) energy – like high carb, high sugar foods.
That means that for some, a small afternoon snack may be helpful to stave off decreases in energy and productivity to get through the afternoon. Snacks should always be focused on incorporating proteins and healthy fats to stabilize energy. Consuming sweets and high carb will likely cause a crash later on in the day.
What makes for a healthy lunch?
The best lunch is made up of a few different components: protein, healthy fats, fiber, and vegetables. Think a helping of roasted veggies with chicken breast and avocado, a big salad with leafy greens, salmon, and olive oil dressing, or a bowl made with fiber-rich grains, veggies, and chicken. So, why these 4 food groups.
Why are these 4 food groups important?
- Proteins help stabilize blood sugar and keep energy levels on an even keel throughout the afternoon. They also provide key amino acids that support the brain and aid in muscle and bone health.
- Healthy fats provide a source of energy that slows our metabolism of foods. Fats are critical for absorption of key nutrients that support the brain and also support hormone production (including our stress hormones). Omega 3 fats are especially important, as they provide key building blocks for the brain.
- Fiber also helps to keep us full and satisfied for longer. Fibers can be found in veggies or in grains like brown or wild rice, or ancient grains like quinoa, sorghum, and others.
- Veggies provide the vitamins and minerals needed to support energy production and brain function. They are also one of the most nutrient-dense sources of food. As such, the minimum daily recommendation is 2.5-3 cups per day, but I recommend even doubling that if possible! Since lunch makes up roughly ⅓ of our food intake for the day, I recommend making sure you’re getting 1-2 cups of veggies at lunch.
Do you have any suggestions for nutrient-packed lunches?
Some of my favorite suggestions for easy WFH lunches include:
- One pan lunch (or dinner leftovers): I am a big fan of a “set it and forget it” method, like the crockpot. But a sheet pan lunch can be a great way to get your fill of protein and veggies without having to stand over the stovetop. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and fill a pan with chicken breast or fish and an array of veggies (I like to do sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts), toss with olive oil and spices, and roast for about 30 minutes. Set this up before you take your break for lunch so you’ve got time to grab an outdoor walk before heading back to the computer.
- Chopped Salad: Chop everything in advance, so you can just toss together, add protein and top with dressing. My favorite is a quick homemade dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a hint of dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
- Ready-made, healthy and on-the-go lunch options are also good for those who cannot find time for the prep work.
We hope these tips helped you out and you’ve now found some inspiration to get cooking and stay healthy. Thank you, Dr. Scheller, for your great tips on this issue!
All images courtesy of Freshly.