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Registered Dietitian and food blogger, Brittaney Berendsen is our guest for Healthy Workplace Month.
Eating out for lunch can dent your wallet and lead to some not-so healthy food choices.
While it may seem like a daunting task at first, investing a little time to plan and prepare nutritious lunches and snacks for work can save you some major coin and lead to better work performance. Check out these healthy lunch packing and mindful eating tips!
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – Alan Lakein: Get organized and plan ahead! Take some time each week to plan out your meals. Make a list and shop once; be sure to take a fridge/pantry inventory before writing your list to reduce food waste and save money. It may feel like a large initial time investment but when compared with making multiple trips to the grocery store or restaurants you are saving yourself time in the long run!
It’s All About Balance: A nutritious lunch doesn’t have to be gourmet or labour intensive to be delicious and satisfying. For a balanced lunch, try incorporating foods from all four food groups and focus on choosing minimally processed complex carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread/crackers, sweet potato etc.), lean proteins (chicken, eggs, tuna etc.) and fibre rich foods (fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils etc.) that will keep you fuller longer.
Love your Leftovers: Cook once and eat twice! When preparing dinner the night before, cook a few extra portions for lunch so you aren’t preparing a separate meal or relying on takeout food the next day. Not a fan of leftovers or eating the same thing a few days in a row? Get creative and repurpose your leftovers! For example, if for dinner you make roasted bell peppers, grilled chicken and rice then you can make a grilled chicken burrito for lunch by wrapping your leftovers in a whole wheat tortilla with some beans, salsa, lettuce and cheese!
Carbohydrate Connection: It’s 2 p.m., you’re sitting at your desk, hiding your yawns and fighting to keep your eyes open. Sound familiar? What you eat for lunch can have a big impact on your afternoon energy levels. Try to avoid consuming foods that are full of simple carbohydrates such as soda, juices, sweets etc. While they provide temporary energy, the spike that they cause in your blood sugar will soon come crashing down. Curb the dreaded afternoon slump by consuming moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates during your workday.
Smart Snacking: To avoid being tempted by the donuts in the breakroom or treats in the vending machine, be sure to pack some healthy snacks. Snacks that incorporate a carbohydrate and protein source will help to satisfy your hunger and sustain your energy until the next meal. Some examples of easy healthy snacks are:
- 1 tbsp natural peanut butter and an apple
- Hard boiled egg with 5-6 whole grain crackers
- Chocolate Zucchini Muffin with 100g Greek yogurt
- ⅓ cup hummus with a mini pita bread and sliced peppers
- Homemade Granola Bar
- 1-2 Energy Bites
Drink Up! Healthy Hydration: Staying hydrated during your work day can help to keep your mind sharp. Keep water at your workstation to sip throughout the day to avoid consuming sugary and caffeine-filled drinks. Plain water not your thing? Try adding a few slices of fresh citrus fruit or mint for some extra refreshing flavour.
Make the Most of Your Lunch Break: In an ideal world we can sit down and eat our meals without interruptions or distractions such as our phone, TV or work. While setting aside distraction and work-free lunchtimes may not always be possible, doing your best to establish protected mealtimes is important. Eating a meal without distractions will enable you to eat more mindfully and become more attuned to your body’s satiety cues. When you are able to listen to your body and truly enjoy your food you are far less likely to overeat or develop cravings for salty or sugary foods. Taking the time to step away from work temporarily will also give your brain a chance to recharge and help you to be more productive.
Without a doubt, eating habits are hard to change. The good news is that you don’t have to perfectly execute healthy lunch/snack packing or mindful eating on your first attempt. Small positive actions daily lead to larger positive outcomes. Challenge yourself- what is one small change you can make today to improve your workplace lunching and snacking habits?
Brittaney Berendsen is a Registered Dietitian and Professional Home Economist. Brittaney is a self-proclaimed foodie and amateur food stylist. She loves to express her creativity in the kitchen through recipe development and is extremely passionate about cooking delicious food that nourishes. She resides in Toronto.
Connect with Brittaney and discover delicious healthy recipes