For a lot of us, working in offices usually meant grabbing a quick, rushed breakfast and then ordering lunch to go. But, now that people are increasingly working from home, it’s the perfect opportunity to get on a schedule and focus on your nutrition.
So, if you feel like you need to improve your overall diet or eating habits, we’ve got you covered. We asked dietitians and nutritionists to share some practical tips on how you can eat healthily while working from home. Here’s what they said:
Create an Enjoyable Space in Your Kitchen
“Your kitchen should never be a place that you don’t love being in,” said Ashlee Van Buskirk, founder of Whole Intent. “If your kitchen is a mess or you just don’t like it for one reason or another, you’ll feel less inclined to cook your meals there. And, when you don’t want to use your kitchen, you will likely order unhealthy food online instead. To make sure you’re eating healthy while working remotely, you need to ensure your kitchen is a wonderful place that you enjoy cooking in. So, take the time to neatly organize and decorate your kitchen. Put some plants on the windowsill, place your spices in plain sight, and keep your kitchen clean.”
Organize Your Fridge & Pantry
Having an organized place to store your food will make it easier to choose healthy alternatives.
“If food is put in front of us, we’re more likely to eat it,” said Megan Wong, a registered dietitian from AlgaeCal. “Store any treats in the cupboard or farther away from your workspace rather than leaving them within sight and reach. Instead, keep healthy snacks readily available and in sight. If you often look in your fridge for snacks, make ready-to-eat healthy snacks the first thing you see when opening the fridge.”
Similarly, Lexi Endicott, registered dietitian and culinary nutrition specialist at To Taste, advises, “Stock your pantry, fridge and freezer with healthy ingredients: whole grains, beans, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and healthy oils. Make it difficult for yourself to reach for unhealthy foods, such as highly processed snacks, sugars, refined grains and processed fats/oils.”
And, although pre-packaged snacks are attractive because it’s so easy to just reach for them and start eating, they are quite problematic, too.
“Prepackaged foods and snacks are easy, but leave you with low energy, poor focus and constant cravings,” said Jackie Furlong, holistic health coach. “These foods have little nutrition and, whether sweet or savory, they turn into sugar in your body. That starts you on a blood sugar roller coaster all day, giving you a quick boost followed by a crash and more cravings.”
Instead, try to keep fruits, veggies and nuts on hand, and reach for these when you get the munchies.
“Healthy snacks will keep your energy high, your focus sharp, improve your mood and keep off those extra pounds,” Furlong said.
Optimize Your Grocery List
“Eating healthy, cutting cooking time, reducing your food waste and saving money on your food expenses all start with an optimized grocery list,” said Kel Reed, nutrition coach and CEO of Measure Backwards. “To build it, think about a grocery list that is centered around common, center-of-the-plate ingredients. This way, you can prepare a wide variety of meals all with the same food.”
For instance, planning meals for the week that are focused on one key ingredient can definitely help keep you in a healthy loop.
“For example, if you have a high protein nutrition goal, a very effective ingredient to build your meals around each week is chicken,” Reed said. “With chicken, you could prepare it as is, chop it up in a salad, add chunks to a bag of frozen vegetables or pasta, shred it [and] wrap it up, all in the same week [and] from the same bag of chicken! The variety in these meals will help prevent you from getting bored in your nutrition, it will ensure you are constantly eating foods that are consistent with your nutrition goals, it will minimize the amount of food you waste, and it can reduce your cooking time when you meal prep.”
Drink More Water
Often, we feel the need to snack when we’re actually thirsty. So, a good goal is to increase water intake and make sure you’re hydrating frequently.
“Setting benchmarks for water intake throughout the day is a great way to make sure you’re meeting your fluid requirements,” said Claudia Hleap, registered dietitian. “Staying hydrated can help with cravings and appetite regulation in the long run. This is one simple way to make sure your body is getting what it needs without dramatically changing your diet!”
Likewise, Bansari Acharya, registered dietitian and nutritionist with foodlove.com, advises, “Always keep a water bottle next to you and make a goal to constantly sip water throughout the day. This will satisfy your thirst, which will help your body not confuse it for hunger. If you don’t like plain water, herbal teas or fruit-infused water are a great choice!”
Be More Aware & Intentional With Your Meals
To make it easier to pursue a healthy diet, start researching and learning about nutrition.
For instance, Matt Becher, founder of Athletic Grit, said, “If you don’t have a basic understanding of nutrition, you’ll probably fail to implement a successful meal plan. You’ll waste too much time trying to achieve success through trial and error, which is why I recommend that you invest a little time and money in learning about nutrition.”
However, if you don’t want to do that, then try to really understand your body and what it needs.
“The body will naturally ask for the healthy foods that make us feel best,” said weight loss expert Michelle Hastie. “It’s when we are stressed, bored, overwhelmed, unfulfilled or any other negative state that we reach for food that’s not so good for us in the long run. The more time we spend in our bodies, the better chance we have of hearing what it needs. It’s as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for five minutes, especially right before you are about to eat. It could be a yoga class to help you connect with your body for a duration of time. It could be a guided meditation to get into your body and out of your head. As long as you’re present and intentionally getting in your body, you’re good to go!”
To that end, Sara Callahan, fitness coach and owner of Nutrition for Life, shared a good habit to help yourself become more intentional in how you eat called Pattern Interrupt:
“When you feel the want to indulge, ask yourself a few questions: 1) Am I actually hungry? If so, eat something nutritious. Think: protein, fruits, veggies,” she said. “2) Am I actually thirsty? If so, drink water! 3) Do I still want that treat? If so, have a moderate portion and really enjoy it. 4) Do I still want more? Look deeper at what else might be going on that might be causing you to continue to want more. If we’re already nourished and are still feeling off, we can then dive deeper and see what else is going on — stress, emotions, boredom, etc. — and strive to address that.”
Create a Schedule & Meal Prep
“Meal planning is key to eating healthy when working from home,” said personal trainer Bill Daniels. “Take a white piece of paper or a white board and make a 7×5 grid of boxes. You now have a box for three meals and two snacks for all seven days of the week. Take a few minutes to plan what you will eat for each meal. Over time, you can create recipe cards to just pin up here with a shopping list on it. Now, when you go shopping, you buy only what’s on your menu for the week. This saves you money because you don’t buy extra things; it saves you stress because you don’t need to figure out what to make for any given meal (especially when you are hungry); it saves you time because you won’t forget to prep something for a meal that day; and it keeps you on track because you can schedule each meal for when you want to eat it.”
Creating structure is also essential.
“The most difficult part of working from home and living in an apartment when it comes to eating is the lack of structure,” said Dr. Lisa Young, author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim.” “So, I urge people to create a structure — plan when, what and how much you are going to eat, and try to stick to it as best as possible. And, stay out of the kitchen when it’s not meal or snack times.”
She also adds — and we cannot stress this enough — the importance of being kind to yourself.
“It’s a stressful time, so don’t let food create added stress,” Dr. Young said. “Do the best you can and take it one day at a time! And, block out some time to exercise.”
Now, develop your own diet and mindset for healthy eating. Stay safe and healthy!