7 Ways to eat healthy when close to the office fridge
Dietitian Member of the DAA
In theory, eating healthy food every day at the work office should be simple. Pack a healthy lunch and away you go. In reality, work stress or access to unhealthy foods in the office, can sabotage your healthy habits. The good news is that there are ways to get around it. Here are 7 ways to make you workday healthy, when the office fridge is in full view.
Packing your own lunch can prevent the urge to buy takeaway or graze on office snacks. The key to making a healthy lunch is to include the right type and amount of macronutrients.
The 4 parts to planning a healthy lunch Include:
- Choose one serve of low GI starchy carbs for a boost of fibre and long lasting energy. One serve is equal to: 2 slices wholegrain bread, 1 pita bread or a 'fist size' of cooked rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa, couscous, sweet potato or legumes e.g., chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans
- Choose one serve of lean protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer. 1 serve of protein is equal to a 'palm size' of cooked red meat or chicken, 1 small tin tuna or salmon, 2 eggs or 1/2 cup legumes e.g., chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans or 100g tofu
- Choose 2 handfuls of vegetables or salad for essential vitamins and minerals
- Add some good fats such as a 'thumb size' of avocado, nuts, seeds, tahini or olive oil.
Meeting deadlines or running from one meeting makes it hard to eat regularly.. Our bodies are programmed to survive. If we skip a meal and get too hungry, we will eat like food is scarce at the next meal! Being without food for long periods of time also depletes our energy and we may be more likely to opt for unhealthy choices.
Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be above a healthy weight. While the reason for this is not clear, what we do know is that breakfast fills you up. Making you less likely to feel hungry throughout the day and snack on high energy, high fat foods.
It may be difficult to resist biscuits or other treats freely available in the office. Especially if other colleagues are grazing on them around you. You could suggest to put the biscuits or other treats away in the kitchen cupboard so it's out of sight, out of mind. Alternatively, you could also suggest to replace the biscuit tin with a fruit bowl. Though it may not go down too well with every colleague!
What you do have complete control of however, are the types of snacks you purchase and bring in. Pack your office drawer and fridge with healthy, 'grab and go' snacks that are nutritious, naturally lower in calories and cheaper.
Healthy snacks will keep you satisfied until the next meal and prevent the 3pm biscuit tin raid! Nutrient dense 'grab and go' snacks include your favourite fruits, natural/Greek style yoghurt, nuts, seeds and wholegrain crackers with hummus, 100% nut spread or reduced fat cheese.
Often we think we are hungry when in fact we may actually be thirsty. Keeping well hydrated can reduce the likelihood of eating more than your body actually needs. Even being mildly dehydrated (fluid loss of 1-3%) can affect energy levels, mood memory and brain performance.
How much water we need depends on a range of factors. These include temperature and exercise, however on average an adult woman should drink at least 2.1 Litres (8 cups) per day. If you are finding it hard to get enough water, keep a water bottle at your desk and in meetings. Have a drink with meals and snacks or even add some lemon or strawberry slices to a jug to give it a flavour boost.
To help you establish a structured eating routine, try setting a reminder in your calendar for lunch and mid meals. Having a structure around eating can help you to make healthier choices.
We eat for many different reasons, when we’re hungry, bored, stressed, tired, thirsty, happy and sad. You may find that your eating habits change when you're at work especially if you're stressed. Next time you feel like eating, ask yourself, 'is it physical hunger or psychological hunger?' Do you have hunger pangs or are you bored or stressed?
Becoming more conscious of your eating habits can help you to figure out the things that trigger you to eat when you’re not hungry. This is a way of being mindful or practising mindful eating. Research has shown us that mindfulness-based interventions may be useful for improving eating behaviours like binge eating and emotional eating. Mindful eating practices can help you to respond more reflectively in a situation when you’re about to eat. Interrupting the automatic responses might help you to eat more intuitively and choose healthy foods to nourish your body.
Trusting our body when we are physically hungry is not always easy especially if we have easy access to the kitchen! Using a hunger scale is another way to help us learn the difference between physical and psychological hunger.
When you feel like you want to eat, try rating your hunger on a scale of one to 10, where one is starving and 10 is so full you feel sick. A rating of five or six means you’re comfortable, neither too hungry nor too full. It’s best to eat when your hunger is a three to four and stop eating when you get to five or six.
Allowing yourself a treat now and again is part of a healthy eating plan. You will also feel less deprived and less likely to rebel and overeat! Once a week, allow yourself that mid-morning biscuit or that slice of office birthday cake or perhaps lunch out at the local café with your colleagues.
Just because the office fridge is in full view doesn’t mean that you won't be able to follow a healthy eating plan. Eating regular, planned meals and snacks plus keeping well hydrated will keep you satisfied and reduce the temptation to opt for unhealthy choices.
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