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Workplace Nutrition: 15 Tips for Success

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

workplace nutrition

Ever been so busy with work you forgot to eat? Well, workplace nutrition is something you need to remember!

Whether you're in the office or working from home, the hustle and bustle of the workday can often leave breakfast and lunch as afterthoughts.

A quick breakfast at your desk, grazing on snacks in the break room, or grabbing a fast-food lunch and gulping it down quickly might be the norm.

That's a norm you need to change if you want to maintain a healthy weight, lower chronic disease risks, and/or keep your energy levels high!

The quick meals at your desk and/or daily fast-food runs have to stop. Here's how to practice good workplace nutrition.

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15 Tips for Proper Workplace Nutrition

Plan Ahead for Lunch

Don't find yourself at the office, hungry, without healthy f0ods on hand.

While your workplace might offer vending machine foods or even an on-site café, bring your own nutritious foods from home to ensure you have what you need to stay healthy.

Plan ahead for lunch on days you eat at the office, even if you head home to eat during your lunch break.

Pre-prep healthy recipes and meals when you have extra time, place the meals into airtight containers in the refrigerator, and simply heat up prepped meals in the microwave during lunchtime.

Nutritious lunches to consider prepping in advance include:

  • A tuna sandwich on whole-grain bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados
  • Shredded chicken with broccoli slaw
  • A cobb salad
  • Turkey or chicken chili with beans
  • A veggie or turkey burger with lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado
  • An omelet containing vegetables plus chicken or seitan
  • Quinoa asparagus chicken bowl
  • Salmon (or other fish), sweet potatoes, and vegetables

Make sure to include protein foods, non-starchy vegetables, fiber-rich starches, and heart-healthy fats in each meal whenever possible.

As a rule, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of your plate with protein foods, and the other one-fourth of the plate with starchy vegetables (corn, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, etc.) or nutritious whole grains.

If you want to lose weight fast, eat healthier, and spend less time cooking, follow this meal prep for weight loss plan!

 

Pack Nutritious Snacks

Have healthy snacks on hand during the workday to ensure you maintain proper workplace nutrition while reducing the urge to graze on junk food.

Snacks to consider bringing with you to the office include:

  • Ready-to-drink protein shakes
  • Protein powder in a shaker cup (just add water and mix)
  • Low-sugar protein bars
  • Turkey jerky
  • Fruit
  • Nuts or seeds
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Hummus with veggies
  • Popcorn

Pack a variety of nutritious snacks in case you get hungry before or after lunch, or even on your drive home from work!

Can’t stop snacking between meals? Learn about HEALTHY snacking and how you can beat cravings.

 

Bring a Water Bottle to Work

During a busy workday, it's often difficult to remember to drink enough water to keep energy levels high and reduce your risk of dehydration and overeating.

Aim to drink about 16 cups of fluids daily if you can.

Bring a water bottle with you to work and know how many cups it holds.

Track your water intake throughout the workday, so you know if you're drinking enough fluids.

If your goal is weight loss, drink about two cups of water before meals to increase satiety without extra calories.

Learn more about the major benefits of water and how to hit your daily hydration levels.

 

Try Unsweetened Coffee or Tea

If you need a pick-me-up at work, consider unsweetened coffee or tea, rather than soda, sweet tea, sugar-sweetened coffee, candy, or other foods with added sugar.

When picking the unsweet versions of coffee or tea, you're getting just five calories (or less) in each serving.

Studies show that caffeine appears to promote reductions in body weight, body mass index, and body fat.

It can give your metabolism a boost, enhance mental alertness, and improve physical performance during exercise.

However, avoid overdoing it with caffeine, as too much of it can cause problems for your health.

Drinking up to four cups of brewed coffee appears to be a safe amount for most healthy adults.

If you're looking for a way to enhance the nutrition content (and taste) of unsweet tea or coffee, add flavored protein powder to it and drink it over ice!

Choose Wisely at Restaurants

You might not feel like eating lunch at your desk every day, and you don't have to!

Eating out with friends or coworkers can offer a much-needed social break from a monotonous daily routine at your desk.

However, because studies show that eating out at fast food or sit-down restaurants is associated with higher body weights and body mass indexes (BMIs), limit dining out and make healthy choices when you do.

For example, order salads with chicken, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, and/or eggs — with dressing on the side.

Steer clear of high-sugar dressings, such as French, thousand island, and honey mustard, and in favor of healthier salad dressings.

Choose broth-based soups over cream-based soups and pass on the ketchup, barbeque sauce, other sugar-sweetened sauces, and gravies.

Forgo French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods in favor of vegetables (or fruits) and protein-rich entrees.

Choose un-breaded meats, such as grilled chicken and baked fish.

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Write Down What You Eat

During a busy work week, it's often difficult to find time to figure out how many calories, or the volume of food, you're consuming.

But if you're trying to clean up your diet to optimize workplace nutrition, keep a food journal with you throughout the day.

If you don't have time to calculate calories, no problem!

Simply use a paper journal or app to record the type and volume of food you're eating.

Studies show that doing so is effective for long-term healthy weight management.

Look for a trend in your dietary habits.

Determine if you're eating too many unhealthy foods — or too much food in general — based on your body weight, body fat percentage, and energy levels.

The way your clothes fit and your waist circumference are good indicators of whether you should make changes in workplace nutrition and lifestyle habits.

Track Weight and Waist Circumference

Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gains, fat loss, or something else, it's useful to track your progress over time.

Set goals and record daily and weekly results.

Studies show that weighing yourself daily is one of the best ways to achieve effective weight loss and long-term healthy weight management.

Step on the scale at the same time each morning and record what you see.

You can measure your waist circumference using a tape measure. Measure the widest area around your waist.

In men, having a waist measurement of 40 inches or less indicates a lower risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

The same holds true for women with waist circumferences of 35 inches or less.

If your waist is larger than 40 inches around, good workplace nutrition habits can help you move toward a healthier weight and waist circumference measurement.


Know Which Foods to Avoid

It might seem daunting to find nutritious meals and snacks to take with you to work.

Many convenient, pre-packaged foods are loaded with sodium, added sugar, preservatives, and calories.

Use caution when choosing pre-packaged foods.

Read nutrition facts labels to get a better feel for the ingredients in these foods, as well as calorie intake, grams of added sugar, and more.

Foods to be cautious about, which means limit or avoid them whenever possible, include:

Pre-Packaged Foods: granola bars, sugary protein or energy bars, sodas, other sugary drinks, proteins drinks containing added sugar, many microwavable dinners, dried fruit with added sugar, fruit cups packed in syrup, sausage and other highly-processed meats, potato chips, sugary cereals, and yogurt containing added sugar.

Restaurant Foods: fried foods, white rice, white bread, regular pasta, cream-based soups and sauces, ketchup, barbeque sauce, hot dogs, ham, bacon, mashed potatoes with gravy, biscuits, fried meats, French fries, other fried foods, sweet tea, soda, lemonade, and alcoholic drinks.

Learn how to read nutrition labels properly and what nutrition facts REALLY mean.

 

Take Frequent Breaks from Sitting

Studies show that sitting down for long time periods is a risk factor for exhaustion, decreased job satisfaction, high blood pressure, and musculoskeletal problems with your lower back, shoulders, thighs, and knees.

It can also boost your risk of unwanted weight gain.

You can decrease the time spent sitting at your work desk in a number of ways.

Every hour, make it a point to get up from your desk and walk around, climb stairs, jump rope, or do pushups or squats to get your blood pumping.

Or, consider using a sit-stand desk instead of a traditional office desk at work.

Learn about the dangers of sitting for too long and how to combat the negative effects of sitting.

 

Consider Lunch Time Workouts

If you have a desk job, consider breaking up a sedentary day with lunchtime physical activity.

While you might not have time for an extensive workout, aim to get in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, weightlifting, or both at an on-site or nearby fitness center.

Or, simply walk or complete bodyweight exercises in your office building or outdoors!

Set aside time before or after work to complete additional aerobic and strength training.

Or, make lunchtime workouts longer and stay a little longer at your office to make up the time.

Lack of time to exercise during the day because of your busy lifestyle? These micro workouts will change everything!

 

Reconsider Happy Hour

While your co-workers might have a few drinks during happy hour at the end of a long workday, saying no to (or limiting) alcohol can help you maintain optimal workplace nutrition and a lower risk of chronic diseases.

Alcohol adds unnecessary empty calories to your meal plan, which might contribute to weight gain, increases in body fat, and a higher risk of developing certain cancers.

Either forgo happy hour altogether to spend time with your family, or attend happy hour now and then but limit or avoid alcoholic drinks.

Drinking in moderation for men equates to consuming two alcoholic beverages or less per day.

Avoid alcohol mixed with soda, lemonade, or other sugary drinks if you can.

Set Your Own Standards

While you might feel tempted to go along with what your workers do and eat throughout the day, keep in mind that nearly three-fourths of adult Americans are classified as overweight or obese.

Don't feel bad about adopting healthy (out-of-the-norm) habits in your workplace.

In fact, setting an example of healthy habits for employees or co-workers might inspire them to change their workplace nutrition habits too!

Find an Accountability Partner

It's sometimes easier to stay on track with good workplace nutrition when you have an accountability partner who keeps you motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Choose a friend, family member, or coworker you can stay active with during work hours or on your lunch break — someone you can eat at healthy restaurants with.

Motivational social support is one of the best ways to maintain exceptional workplace nutrition habits.

Allow Yourself a Cheat Day

Don't be too hard on yourself when it comes to maintaining excellent workplace nutrition.

Allow yourself a cheat day every now and then, so you can relax when dining out with friends and coworkers.

Make workplace nutrition a priority, but don't get discouraged if you have an off day every now and then.

Simply start over with better habits the next day, and to strive to maintain healthy trends over time — even with a few cheat days mixed in!

Find out why you should avoid the all or nothing approach to weight loss, dieting, and fitness.

 

Join a Healthy Lifestyle Program for Men

Adopting healthy workplace nutrition habits is one of the many ways you can improve your overall health and wellness.

Joining a healthy lifestyle program for men, such as the Fit Father Project, can significantly boost your chance of losing weight, building muscle mass, burning fat, optimizing energy, and reducing your risk of developing a chronic disease.

The Fit Father Project program — FF30X — offers custom meal planning, fat-burning exercises you can complete at home, weekly newsletters, social support, and expert online health coaching.

Try a free FFP meal plan and workout to get started today!

To achieve exceptional workplace nutrition habits, make a few healthy lifestyle changes at a time.

Don't give up if you have an off day, but establish good workplace nutrition habits you can stick with for a lifetime!

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Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on workplace nutrition.

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