According to a new study from the American Heart Association, more than nine in 10 employed U.S. adults are interested in improving the healthfulness of their typical workday lunches.
But workday stress and responsibilities at home can cause many people to struggle with making healthy choices. Fortunately, with a little mindfulness and preparation, you can change your habits and eat better, says Jaclyn Zindell, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition coordinator at UHS.
Eating unhealthy meals and snacks—or skipping lunch altogether—impacts your overall performance and mood at work. It can also impact your meal decisions later in the day, making it more likely that you will overeat or continue to make unhealthy choices. Well-balanced lunches and snacks are key to keeping your body fueled all day long, and can improve your energy levels, concentration and focus.
One of the best ways to ensure that you’re eating a healthy lunch is to pack it yourself at home, rather than buying food from a restaurant or vending machine. While packing a healthy lunch can seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be, says Ms. Zindell.
“Plan ahead and have items on hand that you can easily pack, such as veggies, fruit, yogurt, salad makings, hardboiled eggs and cottage cheese. Or, pack leftovers from dinner,” she says. “Pack your lunch the night before so that you are not scrambling in the morning or end up not having time. Keep it simple—the easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you are to do it.”
Ms. Zindell also suggests having healthy snacks at your desk, so you’re not tempted to hit the vending machine or candy bowl. Healthy snacks include fresh fruit, vegetables, hummus, rice cakes and homemade trail mix.
Where you eat lunch is just as important as what you eat. Getting away from your desk can reduce stress by taking the focus off of work. But while it’s important to change up your surroundings, eating on the run or in your car too often contributes to unhealthy decisions, because you may be more tempted to hit the drive-through or skip lunch completely. Instead, bring your lunch to the office kitchen or dining space, cafeteria or a table outside. “Taking a short walk to another part of the building for lunch can sneak in a few extra steps as well,” says Ms. Zindell.
For some simple, healthy and hearty lunch and snacking options, check out DIY Trail Mix & Easy Lunch Ideas.