As more of us are returning to the workplace, I’m hearing very frequently from folks that they are finding it difficult to find time to eat at work. As a result, many find themselves ravenous when they return home, leading them to overeat or make food choices they would not have otherwise.
What Happens When We Undereat During Our Workday
A number of issues arise when we fail to eat during our workday. For one, our energy levels drop and it becomes hard to focus. Our performance may suffer, whether we realize it or not. That extreme hunger can also impact our mood and, by extension, our relationships with our coworkers and staff. Failing to provide our bodies with ample nutrition during the day also makes us less resilient to stress. When we do get to eat and overdo it, that often results in feelings of guilt, shame, and regret, further contributing to our stress levels and sometimes leading to unhealthy behaviors to compensate. Finally, eating too much too late can disrupt our sleep, which can affect our performance, stress levels, and immune system function.
How to Make It Easier to Find Time to Eat at Work
Ideally, we make time for at least a lunch break each day, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you find yourself struggling to pull yourself away from your work, it’s important to make it as easy as possible to eat.
What to Eat at Work
When eating at work, we want to make sure that we have enough energy and are feeling satisfied throughout the day. The key to achieving this is balanced snacking. Combining protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat will provide the calories and nutrition we need.
- Protein – provides fullness and satiety for longer periods
- Complex Carbohydrates – provides steady, lasting energy levels
- Fat – contributes to satisfaction as well as energy
Here are some nutritious snacks that will hit the mark on this:
- Starkist tuna packet with whole grain crackers
- Crunchy chick pea or edamame snacks
- Protein bars
- DIY trail mix: nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate chips
- Individual packs of almonds
- Cheese stick with whole grain crackers
- Apple with nut butter (individual packets of nut butter like Justin’s are super handy!)
You might have noticed that many of the examples above are shelf stable and/or transportable. That is entirely by design. Keeping snacks like these in your desk drawer or in your car makes it very easy for you to eat and make nutritious choices.
So that’s one step for making it easier for yourself to eat during the workday: keep simple snacks handy.
But what if you tend to look up at 4 pm and realize you haven’t eaten since 8 am?
A good solution for this issue is to set an alarm or calendar event for every 2 hours or so. When that alarm goes off, take a minute or two to check in with yourself: when was the last time you ate? Do you feel any signs of hunger right now? How is your energy? Your focus? If you’re feeling hungry, grab one of those easy snacks.
If you are able to make these small changes and increase the amount of food you eat during the work day, you will likely find you energy levels improve, your mood improves, and you feel more in control around food at the end of the day.