12 small but significant tips for mindful eating at work
After a conference meeting, you somehow ended up in the kitchen, and while thinking about business conversations, you imperceptibly destroy a whole packet of crackers. You’re so immersed in the project you’re working on that you suddenly realize: you haven’t eaten anything all day!
Too often our work meets lunchtime and even dinnertime, and in home office conditions the refrigerator is too close to the office desk. Many people have turned the work space into a dining room, and this lifestyle leads to a lot of problems – for work and for health. We know it’s good to eat a balanced diet and do regular exercise, but is this doable with an 8-10 hour work day at the computer with no strictly defined time for lunch breaks and exercise?
One extra productive day
Employees who participated in a wellness program that included balanced nutrition programs showed higher productivity, equivalent to one extra productive workday per month. I don’t know how many days of useful activity we lose by eating unhealthy foods, but the Harvard Business Review article “What You Eat Affects Your Productivity” says, “It doesn’t take awareness—it’s an action plan that makes it easy to achieve a healthy life.”
That’s why we have small but significant practical tips on how to improve your eating habits at work.
1. Do not work in the kitchen
If possible, arrange your workplace in a room that is far from the kitchen, because when the refrigerator is in your view, you will be tempted to open it more often than necessary. Stick a catchy sign on the door like, “Am I really hungry?”, “Haven’t I eaten already?” or something similar and remind yourself not to peek in until it’s time for lunch/dinner.
2. Educate yourself
The most important thing is to learn more about the nutritional value and impact of different products – this knowledge will help you orient yourself correctly. For example, you’ll know that sushi and granola bars contain a lot more sugar than you thought. When you know the details of the health value of each product, you will prefer, for example, a piece of toast with a boiled egg instead of jam, because the proteins, vitamins, iron, zinc and choline contained in the egg are far more beneficial than the sugar in the jam. In addition, scientists have already debunked the myth that eggs increase cholesterol.
3. A healthy routine
We often eat whatever comes in front of us at the grocery store or whatever is easiest to prepare, but when you plan and build healthy habits, you’ll be prepared with healthier options. Plan your lunch and breakfast times the same way you plan what time to get up and when to shower to avoid chaotic eating whenever something to eat comes in sight.
Don’t buy junk food, don’t stock the cupboards with waffles and crackers that will only give you empty calories – out of sight, out of mind.
4. Don't make food decisions on an empty stomach
So it is almost certain that you will eat more than necessary, but if you choose your daily menu after having a solid breakfast and when you stick to the plan, you reduce the risk of overeating.
5. Simplicity is the key
Make yourself a light nutritious sandwich or carrots with a handful of nuts for lunch, fruit for an afternoon snack – this way you avoid the chips from the vending machine and the cake at the nearby pastry shop.
6. Stay hydrated
Tea, coffee and sugary sodas will not help with this. Drink enough water while working to preserve your cognitive abilities, keep the glass on your desk always full of water. For the day, the optimal amount is 1.5-1.8 liters of water.
7. Don't skip breakfast
If you work long hours without eating something healthy, your blood sugar and energy drop, your ability to concentrate decreases, and you feel jittery. Also, when you start eating, it is very likely that you will overdo the portions or the unhealthy products.
“No meal should be skipped, but it is especially important not to skip breakfast because it increases the risk of obesity, atherosclerosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol,” Dr. George Stella, senior director of Aetha International, explains. A solid first meal encourages the body to burn more calories throughout the day and helps control cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. They are high early in the morning and are responsible for making you feel anxious and tense at work.
8. Maximum 2 cups of coffee
If you can limit yourself to one coffee – even better. 2 cups of the caffeinated drink is enough to keep you alert – if you increase the amounts, it will dehydrate you and make you jittery and sleepy, that’s right: too much coffee makes you sleepy!
9. The smart lunch
During a busy working day, a healthy lunch is not only the most important thing, but also the biggest challenge, because ideally it should contain proteins, sugars, fibers, fats, carbohydrates and other nutritional ingredients in full balance. “Pastas, breads and high-carbohydrate meals for lunch quickly release glucose, which leads to a quick burst of energy, then a quick drop in attention and motivation.
A portion with more fat provides longer-lasting energy, but it puts a strain on the digestive system, and its increased work reduces oxygen levels in the brain, which makes us feel exhausted,” Dr. Stella commented.
The more vegetables and fruits we consume – up to 7 servings a day – the happier, engaged and creative we are. This is according to the results of a study, explaining that vegetables contain vital nutrients that promote the production of dopamine. This hormone promotes curiosity, motivation and focus. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables improve mood and memory.
The best advice you can get for a healthy work lunch is to eat a big salad – home made, away from the screen of electronic devices. No processed, canned or packaged foods!
10. When you eat, don't do anything else
Make this a rule because whether you’re working in the office or from home, you can be tempted to check your email while you eat, so there’s no benefit to the food, even if it’s the most nutritious soup. Distractions during meals can lead to overeating or undereating.
11. The 80/20 Rule
It’s impossible to be 100% committed and dedicated to the concept of healthy eating, but at least 80% of the time you can. That’s exactly what the 80/20 rule is all about – making the best possible choice most of the time, but also enjoying something small and harmful every now and then.
Mindful eating, according to Dr. Stella, is about focusing on the present moment, accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. To appreciate the food you eat, think about its color, taste, texture. It would be great to find time to prepare your own food so you can enjoy it to the fullest.
12. Take it easy
Eat slowly, do not swallow large amounts at once. Pour a little, if you don’t have enough, add, but do not overdo it either with the large portions or with the quick filling up.. You don’t have to eat everything on your plate, chew thoroughly and practice refusing extra snacks and dessert if you already feel full.