How to Eat Healthy at Work
You spend most of your waking hours at work, so it’s no surprise that your workplace nutrition habits have a major impact on your health. But did you know that proper workplace nutrition can help you get ahead? Studies show that people who binge eat are less productive at work and that overweight and obese workers earn 15 percent less on average than their healthy-weight counterparts. Use the tips below to stay energized, productive, and fueled at the office.
Workplace Nutrition by the Numbers
Amount that obese employees are more likely to binge eat at work.
Estimated cost of annual productivity loss related to binge eating for a company of 1,000 employees.
7 Easy Ways to Start Eating Healthier at Work
- Ditch the junk. Empty your candy bowl and get rid of chips, crackers, and other unhealthy snacks stashed in your desk. The less you’re tempted by junk food, the healthier you’ll eat.
- Make time for meals. It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re slammed at the office. Block off 30 minutes each day to walk away from your desk and eat a healthy meal. You’ll come back refreshed and re-energized.
- Bring leftovers. Make an extra portion when you’re cooking dinner each night, and you’ll have a healthy lunch to take to the office the next day. You’ll also save money by doing this.
- Plan your meals. If you know you’re going to eat two or three meals and two snacks at the office, plan ahead. Coming prepared will help you avoid getting too hungry and indulging on unhealthy junk food. Click here for a sample meal plan for a perfect day of eating at the office.
- Keep snacks at your desk. Forget vending. Instead, stock your desk drawer with dried fruit, packaged tuna, jerky, nuts, snack bars, and applesauce. If you have a mini fridge, stock up on fat-free yogurt, fresh veggies, and bottled water.
- Bring in a water bottle. Start each day with a full bottle of water at your desk and make an effort to drink water often starting first thing in the morning. You’ll stay hydrated and energized.
- Choose balanced snacks. When planning snacks for work, choose snacks with a combination of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean proteins to boost your metabolism, increase energy, and feel fuller longer, such as a peanut butter and banana sandwich or an apple with a handful of almonds.
15 Healthy Snacks for the Office
Come to work prepared with healthy snacks, and you’ll improve focus, increase productivity, and avoid packing on pounds. Here are fifteen snack foods to help you stay satisfied.
- Walnuts – Walnuts are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Pair a handful of walnuts with a piece of low-fat cheese, your favorite fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal for a fiber-rich morning snack that will help you feel full longer.
- Apples – Apples are loaded with pectin, which helps suppress your appetite. Eating an apple mid-day helps control blood sugar and may aid in weight loss. Have it with a spoonful of nut butter (cashew, peanut, almond) to add muscle-building protein and healthy fat.
- Greek Yogurt – Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. Plus, it contains healthy bacteria, known as probiotics, to keep your digestive tract healthy. Top 6 to 8 ounces of Greek Yogurt with ¾ cup of berries for a mid-day snack.
- Green Tea – Research has shown that green tea helps lower cholesterol and decreases the risk of diabetes and stroke. What’s more, it boosts metabolism to help you burn fat. Drink two to three cups of green tea throughout the day to reap the benefits. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, don’t drink green tea after 3 p.m.
- Beef Jerky – Beef jerky is a great source of protein and comes in a bunch of flavors for variety. Opt for the 96% fat-free jerky when possible. Eat 1 to 2 servings of jerky with a piece of fruit, such as an apple or pear, for a balanced snack.
- Oatmeal and Blueberries – Complex carbs like oatmeal provide steady, long-lasting energy, and help you feel full longer. Top off 1/2 cup of hot oats with 1 cup of fresh blueberries, which are packed with nutrients that help promote brain function.
- Spinach Salad – Mix up a fresh salad with 2 cups of spinach (rich in energy-boosting magnesium), 1 cup of antioxidant-packed strawberries, and 1/2 cup of black beans and one large hard-boiled egg for extra protein.
- Oranges and Almonds – Staying hydrated helps you stay energized. In addition to drinking water throughout the day, eat fruits like oranges, which are 90 percent water. Pair one large orange with an ounce of raw almonds, which are loaded with fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fat.
- Carrots and Hummus – 10 carrots pair well with 1/2 cup of hummus. This low-calorie combo is packed with beta-carotene, fiber, and healthy fat to help you feel full throughout the afternoon.
- Low-Fat Cottage Cheese and Pineapple – Half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese is high in protein and calcium, while 3/4 cup of fresh pineapple offers a sweet topping that can decrease inflammation in the body and improve digestion.
- Yogurt, Granola, and Cherries – Yogurt contains probiotics, which are known as the good bacteria needed for a healthy digestive tract. Add some crunch to 1 cup of yogurt by mixing in 1 cup of low-fat, fiber-rich granola and 1/2 cup of dark cherries for a punch of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
- Kashi Cherry Chocolate Granola Bar – While an unprocessed snack of fresh fruits and veggies is preferable, stock your desk drawer with granola bars to bail you out when you're crunched for time. Kashi granola bars are packed with fiber, and they make a great on-the-go snack.
- Pear and Cheese – This simple snack is low in calories and perfect for portion control. A pear and a fat-free mozzarella cheese stick are rich in calcium, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
- Apple and Almond Butter – Pair an apple with 2 tablespoons of almond butter for a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering snack packed with healthy fat and fiber.
- Edamame – Snack on a 1/2 cup of edamame for a delicious, calorie-controlled snack that's rich in fiber and protein. You can buy edamame fresh at the supermarket or keep a bag of frozen edamame in the freezer.
What to Eat When Ordering Out
Bringing healthy, home-cooked food to the office is one of the best ways to keep your nutrition on track, but sometimes marathon meetings and late nights make ordering out hard to avoid. So we've pulled together a list of what to order and what to steer clear of at some popular restaurant chains. When you look at the nutrition facts, you'll see that salads and other foods you might expect to be healthy aren't always the best options, so keep this list handy to choose the healthiest menu items every time.
- Margarita Grilled Chicken (600 calories, 13 g fat, 72 g carbs)
- Guiltless Classic Sirloin (370 calories, 16 g fat, 47 g carbs)
- Jalapeno Smokehouse Burger with Ranch (2160 calories, 138 g fat, 132 g carbs)
- Shiner Bock BBQ Ribs (1750 calories, 84 g fat, 167 g carbs)
- Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich on Semolina Bread (690 calories, 26 g fat, 90 g carbs)
- Fuji Apple Chicken Salad (520 calories, 31 g fat, 35 g carbs)
- Chipotle Chicken Sandwich (830 calories, 37 g fat, 72 g carbs)
- Steak and Blue Cheese Salad (850 calories, 64 g fat, 26 g carbs)
- Chicken Romaine Salad with Black Beans, Veggies, Tomato Salsa (375 calories, 8 g fat, 37 g carbs)
- Burrito with Rice, Cheese, Sour Cream, Guacamole, Dressing, Chips (1050 calories, 68 g fat, 89 g carbs)
California Pizza Kitchen
- Half Chinese Chicken Salad (376 calories, 12 g fat, 49 g carbs)
- Avocado Club Egg Rolls (1172 calories, 84 g fat, 58 g carbs)
- Pesto Cream Penne with Shrimp (1562 calories, 103 g fat, 91 g carbs)
- Small Honey Bacon Club (330 calories, 3.5 g fat, 42 g carbs)
- Small Ultimate Turkey Club (360 calories, 10.5 g fat, 43 g carbs)
- Regular Lobster & Seafood Salad Sub (760 calories, 41 g fat, 75 g carbs)
- Small Double Cheese Cheesesteak Sub (700 calories, 42 g fat, 43 g carbs)
- 2 Slices Veggie Pizza (460 calories, 20 g fat, 60 g carbs)
- 2 Slices Chicken/Veggie Pizza (400 calories, 14 g fat, 50 g carbs)
- 2 Slices Meatzza Feast (560 calories, 28 g fat, 54 g carbs)
- 2 Slices Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch (640 calories, 36 g fat, 50 g carbs)
- 6" Oven Roasted Turkey on 9-Grain Bread (320 calories, 4.5 g fat, 49 g carbs)
- 6" Low-Fat Buffalo Chicken with Light Ranch on 9-Grain Bread (370 calories, 6 g fat, 54 g carbs)
- Footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki (760 calories, 9 g fat, 120 g carbs)
- 8" Sausage Pizza (820 calories, 34 g fat, 97 g carbs)
What to Eat Before a Big Day
Eating a balanced meal and hydrating before the start of a busy day could be the difference between a career-changing presentation and an embarrassing flop in front of your boss. Use these three simple nutrition tips to start your day right.
The Night Before
Feeling anxious? Do some light stretching and read, but minimize or avoid alcohol. While a drink may help you fall asleep initially, it disrupts the vital REM sleep cycle that helps boost creative thinking and long-term memory. A glass of wine, beer, or cocktail the night before a big meeting can also flush your system of the water-soluble vitamins and minerals you need to perform great the next day.
The Big Morning
When you sleep, levels of the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, rise. Bring your cortisol levels back in balance with a healthy breakfast of high-fiber carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Carbs are vital to this process, so don’t skimp. Try a small bowl of oatmeal, berries, and scrambled egg whites with avocado. Or two slices of whole wheat toast, two poached eggs, pineapple and mango. Another option is Greek yogurt, low-fat granola, and walnuts. For more breakfast ideas, read "6 Protein-Packed Breakfasts to Kickstart Your Day."
Throughout the Day
Drink a tall glass of water first thing in the morning and keep drinking all day. Proper hydration can help you think clearly, increase productivity, and reduce stress. For every pound you weigh, aim to drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water. For example, a 180-pound person should drink a minimum of 90 ounces (or 3 liters) of water per day. Check out Joe Kita’s "The Hydration Experiment" for more tips.