Fitness Facts: Eating while working from home
EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of National Nutrition Month, the weekly Fitness Facts has been focused on nutrition for all of March. Additionally, we are hosting a healthy eating trivia contest for all GCU Today readers throughout the month. Each week’s Fitness Facts contains a trivia question. To enter, email your answer to [email protected] by the end of the day each Friday to be entered to win a healthy prize basket. We will select one winner each week as well as one grand prize winner at the end of the month. Winners will be notified each Monday, and prizes will be distributed when all employees are back on campus. Good luck!
By Liz Cook
Registered Dietitian, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Hello from my kitchen, where I’m guessing many of you are as well.
The flexibility of working from home is a great benefit, especially in times like these, but it certainly comes with its fair share of challenges. A few of the common challenges include how to stick to a schedule amid chaos and how to eat when you’re just steps away from all the food in your home all day long.
Today, we’re going to cover some strategies for staying healthy while working from home.
One of my biggest tips is to stick to some sort of structure. Most of us have an eating schedule that we follow during a normal workday, and while your schedule at home doesn’t have to be the same as it is in the office, there should be some structure.
Ideally, we want to be eating every three to four hours throughout the day to keep our bodies fueled and our minds sharp. However, there is no magic eating interval that we need to stick to when developing a structure for ourselves. Think about what usually works for you and when you tend to get hungry and use that to develop your own personalized plan.
Often when there is a kitchen full of food at our fingertips, we are more inclined to just snack our way through the day than to eat proper meals. Try your best to stick with normal, healthy, well-balanced meals. Having a general plan for when breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack or two fit into your day will help you stay on track and not mindlessly graze on whatever is easily accessible.
However, it is also important to remain flexible. If you planned for lunch at 1 p.m. and you’re absolutely starving at 11 a.m., either have a healthy snack to hold you over or bump up lunchtime a bit. Listening to your body is key, and your hunger signals shouldn’t be ignored simply so you can execute your plan perfectly.
When it is time for a meal or a snack – take a step away from your workstation. Studies have shown that when eating mindfully – not in front of a screen – individuals feel more satisfied with what they are eating. Additionally, when practiced regularly, mindful eating can lead to consuming less overall and selecting healthier options more frequently.
Another consideration when working from home is hydration. With plenty of coffee or other caffeinated drinks on hand, you may find yourself sipping on way more caffeine than normal. Set some boundaries for yourself regarding the quantity of caffeine and timing of consumption throughout the day.
If we go straight to coffee in the morning and don’t prioritize water, it’s not hard to find ourselves midafternoon questioning if we’ve had any water all day. Make water a priority as well. Try setting yourself a goal in terms of number of glasses, bottles, cups, etc., and sticking to that daily.
I like to set myself a before lunch water goal and a before dinner water goal to make sure I keep myself on track to reach my total goal by the end of the day.
My other biggest tip for keeping yourself eating healthfully while working at home is to do a little meal planning. Many of us are well stocked given the current circumstances. If you need some ideas on what to buy – check out last week’s article.
However, do you even know what all you have on hand? Doing an inventory of what is in your fridge, freezer and pantry right now is helpful to put everything you bought to good use.
A good goal for all of us during this time of social distancing should be to use what we buy, waste less and therefore go to the grocery store less. As part of your inventory, it may be helpful to get a good idea of what is the freshest and what needs to be used soon to prevent going bad.
After you know what you have and what needs to be used quickly, take some time to plan a few ideas of how to use those things. I love using Yummly for recipe ideas, and it is perfect for this type of situation. You can search for the type of recipe you’d like (for example, tacos) or search for an ingredient you have and want to use.
If you have multiple ingredients you want to use together but aren’t sure exactly how to combine them, start by searching for one of the ingredients, then click “filter,” go to the “ingredients” tab and add any other ingredients you want to use!
I suggest planning a few meals out for the week, identifying any ingredients you don’t have on hand for those meals, making a grocery list and heading to the store one time to get everything you need for the rest of the week.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the state of the world, with the transition to working at home and with being out of your usual routine, don’t overcomplicate things in the eating department. Keep things simple. There’s no shame in eating something quick and easy when you don’t have any more brainpower to give.
However, if you find yourself bored and with a little extra time on your hands, this may be a fun time to try some fun, new recipes. Experiment with making things you’ve never made before or wouldn’t usually have time to prepare during the week. If you find yourself with a lot of odds and ends and aren’t sure exactly how to use them, try throwing them together a big salad, a batch of homemade soup or a stir-fry.
When it comes to making healthy choices, one of the most important things is to have healthy things on hand for both meals and snacks. If the only snack options you have are chips and sweets, your snack time likely won’t end well. However, if you have fresh fruit, veggies and dip, etc. in the fridge, you’re more likely to make a better choice.
If you read the first nutrition article in this series, you’ll know I don’t think we all need to eat 100% “healthy” all of the time. Rather, I believe in finding an 80/20 balance where 80% of your choices are good, healthy choices that fuel your goals and the remaining 20% are fun foods you truly love and enjoy despite not being the healthiest options available.
This holds true when working from home. You don’t always have to pick celery over chips, but stay mindful of the balance of your choices and try to shift that balance positively whenever possible.
If you find yourself really struggling to find healthy patterns while working from home, I encourage you to keep a food log for a few days. Simply writing down what you are eating throughout the day can bring valuable insight and awareness to what is happening in your kitchen.
If you think you need a little more guidance, feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected] for some more personalized advice!
Here is your trivia question of the week: What are the two biggest tips for eating healthy while working from home? Send your answer to [email protected] by the end of the day Friday to be entered to win!