Today’s workplace is a veritable buffet of unhealthy foods. Finding healthy foods to eat from the vending machines, “goodie days,” and snack spreads at meetings is a challenge when it’s filled with everything from giant bottles of soda to chocolate frosted donuts. These foods are not only unhealthy, but they are usually the last thing from sustainable, made with processed ingredients that were mass produced on factory farms treated with oil-based fertilizer before going into the snack.
But despite these temptations, it’s possible to find healthy food snacks and meals and eat sustainably while at work.
Identifying the Problems
Identifying the underlying reason for your daily trip to the soda machine or indulgence in donuts at every meeting is a key step in moving towards finding healthy foods to eat at work.
There are many reasons why people feel the need to eat less than healthy food or snacks, perhaps even if they’re not hungry:
- Stress – Some foods have a texture or taste that you may associate with comfort when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and work is oftentimes a stressful place to be.
- Social events – Almost all gatherings include food of some kind, and it’s hard to resist when everyone else is partaking, especially if those other people are your coworkers. You may not buy unhealthy snacks at home, but if your supervisor offers you a processed snack at a meeting, it may not seem like the best career move to bring up the reasons why those types of snacks are not sustainable or healthy. Even politely declining the offer without going into your reasons can be uncomfortable.
- Boredom – Munching or sipping on something distracts from the dullness of repetitive tasks.
- Because it’s there, and it seems like it will taste good – I’m sure we’ve all fallen into this temptation. If it’s convenient, it will seem like the best choice when our schedules are packed.
On top of this, there’s the growing trend of working through lunch – eating at your desk so you can get more work done during the day. This is a poor habit regardless of the healthy food snacks you’re eating. By focusing more on work than on the food you’re putting in your mouth, you may find yourself done with lunch without ever having tasted a bite, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and craving something more.
It’s also not any more productive. I know that when I am eating and working at the same time, both things go more slowly.
Making Healthier Decisions
You can beat your busy schedule simply by making a little time for preparation of healthy foods to eat at work. Planning ahead helps you avoid the expense of eating out, gives you ways to bypass workplace food temptations, and can eliminate many undesirable foods and food additives from your diet.
Healthy food snacks like granola and trail mix can be made at home in large batches and stored in ziplocks, or re-used pickle or knorr jars. To make this even easier and more cost-effective, look into purchasing oats, seeds, nuts, and dried fruit in bulk.
Buying bulk is cheaper and uses less packaging than pre-prepared snacks, and when you buy your own ingredients, you choose exactly what goes into the mix-preferences like local and organic will be easier to manage.
Other ways you can ensure good nutrition throughout the week with healthy food, snacks and meals include:
- Pre-cooking large batches of healthy grains such as brown rice and quinoa to have on hand for lunch or dinner.
- Slicing up your favorite veggies to take as snacks or put on sandwiches (my favorites are chopped green peppers and carrot slices).
- Learning to make your own healthy spreads and dips with less fat and salt than commercial varieties.
- Cooking extra food at dinner so that leftovers can be packed for a quick lunch.
Keeping healthy food snacks nearby, such as:
- Nuts and seeds.
- Cheese slices with crackers or cheese sticks.
- Fruit, such as bananas, oranges or apples.
- Granola or trail mix, as mentioned above.
- Air-popped organic popcorn with sea salt if you’re wanting a munchie.
- Organic corn chips and homemade salsa or vegetarian refried beans.
- Avocado and tomato slices with sea salt on whole-grain crackers or bread.
And for the days when you really can’t manage to put together your own food, make sure you’re familiar with the eateries around your workplace. By knowing who has the healthiest and most sustainable food options, you can make better choices even on the busiest of days.
More About Eating Healthy at Work
If your work culture is unhealthy or does not share your values in sustainable eating, the last thing you should do is preach to your coworkers about what they are eating. Not only is that unprofessional, but it will likely make them resent you. After all, nobody enjoys being told what they should do, and if you start nagging people, it may damage your success and chances of promotion.
Instead, bring your own healthy food snacks, and if you have extra, share them with co-workers. You can also get people on board with your sustainable and healthy foods to eat by bringing batches of some foods to meetings. If you are sharing your healthier options, you will feel like you are contributing to your work environment and also have more choices for healthy foods to eat.
If it seems like you can’t get away from distracting, unhealthy food choices at work, remember that you’re in control of what you eat. Packing nutritious snacks, preparing lunch in advance, and being knowledgeable about nearby healthy eateries keeps you away from tempting junk food. A few changes in routine are all you need to move towards healthy foods to eat at work every day while feeling better about your choices.
Reference – Healthy foods to eat at the office by Sustainable Baby Steps.