Ever feel like you have trouble staying on track with your healthy eating schedule during those long work days? You’re definitely not alone!
Eating right is about routine as much as it is a general lifestyle choice. When work gets too busy and you’re bogged down with meetings, presentations and deadlines, it’s all too easy to lose track of what normally works for you.
We totally get it: fast food and vending machine snacks are quick, easy, and super convenient when you’re running on fumes and just need something to tide you over. But eating healthy can be just as convenient, and it can also provide you with a lot more protein and other essential macronutrients that you need to keep your brain and body healthy.
Below, we’re sharing some of our very best tips for eating healthy during long work days, with helpful ideas that take all of the guesswork out of nourishing yourself when an hour lunch break and a standard 9-5 just aren’t in the cards.
The Importance of Eating Right at Work
It’s not just your diet that takes a hit when the days get long. Working too much has been found to be correlated with everything from increased alcohol consumption and fatigue to body aches and lower rates of productivity. It can also take a huge toll on your mental health.
The quality of the food that you eat is just one more thing that gets pushed to the side when you’re too busy. But, making the effort to eat right can do more for you than just support your larger health goals. Some eating habits, such as skipping meals and overloading on carbs and caffeine, can have a seriously negative impact on your productivity. Meanwhile, leaning on junk food as a crutch or a time saver can exacerbate depressive symptoms caused by being overworked and make it a whole lot more difficult to bounce back when your work day finally finishes.
Hopefully long work days aren’t your norm and it’s only an occasional thing that you find yourself swapping out good eating habits for a heavy task load. Either way though, it’s always smart to have ideas in your back pocket of what you can do to eat well when the days get long. With that in mind, here are four of the best places to start.
Healthy Eating Tips for Long Work Days
There are lots of ways to encourage healthy eating on the job—and all of them have one big thing in common: making it as easy as possible to eat right, despite outside influences. That’s why things like nutritious vending machine options and encouraging employees to eat lunch away from their desks can make such a massive difference.
If eating healthily at work is important to you (and it definitely should be!), here are some things that you can do to simplify the process and provide yourself with the right tools to eat your best while doing your best.
1. Keep a drawer of healthy snacks at your desk
Convenience is key when it comes to healthy eating during a long work day. But convenience doesn’t have to mean candy bars and bags of chips. By stocking healthy snacks right at your desk, you provide yourself with grab and go options that you can easily reach for when you’re feeling hungry, and that, as a bonus, will give you the boost that you need to keep on going.
Some great choices to keep on hand: roasted chickpeas, homemade granola or trail mix, popcorn, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, and nuts (more on those below). If you’ve got the space to spare, you may also want to consider keeping a miniature refrigerator at your desk for storing healthy non-perishable snacks like fresh fruit, hummus, and Greek yogurt.
2. Always have nuts nearby
It’s hard to overestimate just how essential nuts can be to intuitive healthy eating on the job. Nuts, especially different types of almonds and cashews, are full of protein, healthy fats, and other necessary nutrients that fill you up and give you an increase in energy—all without needing to slow you down or distract from what you’re doing.
The best kinds of nuts to eat at work are ones that offer the biggest bang for your buck in terms of nutrition. Those aforementioned almonds and cashews are right at the top of the list, as are pistachios and walnuts. To get the most benefits, limit consumption of processed or less nutritious nuts like macadamia nuts and candied nut varieties.
3. Start your day with breakfast—and don’t skip lunch!
Eating well-balanced meals is key to surviving a long work day. That means starting your day with a protein-filled breakfast and actually taking the time to stop, sit down, and enjoy your lunch, instead of trying to juggle your meal with emails and assignments.
Skipping meals decreases your productivity and energy levels and makes it more likely that you’ll make poor food choices later in the day. It also has a negative impact on your mood. If you know that you have a busy day coming up, plan ahead by figuring out what you’re going to do for breakfast (even if it’s just grabbing an egg sandwich and a yogurt on your way to the office) and packing yourself a healthy lunch.
4. Stay hydrated
Dehydration plays more of a role in your larger eating habits than you might think. When we don’t drink enough water—and particularly when we rely more on coffee or soda—we experience huge drops in energy that we may try to supplement with sugary or processed snacks. So while you should be drinking plenty of water anyway, it becomes doubly important when you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet amidst a jam-packed schedule.
Bring a big water bottle with you to work so that you can track water intake throughout the day and refill as needed. If you make it routine, the benefits will follow.
Eating right is critical to your ability to do your best at work. Make it a priority and you’ll find that those long days become a lot easier to handle—and a lot less draining.
About the Author
Alex Sal is a business journalist, startup entrepreneur, and market researcher. He is a recent graduate of economics from Queens College.