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Build Healthy Eating Habits

Are you looking to make your work day healthier? As a registered dietitian, here are some common questions that I’m asked to help people make healthy eating choices throughout their workday.

Question: What do you recommend I eat when my energy dips towards the end of the workday?

Keeping healthy snacks on hand helps to curb the munchies. Fruit, yogurt, cheese and crackers, nuts, and raw veggies are all healthy snacks that can be kept on hand. Remember to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated! Regular physical activity can also help improve your energy levels throughout the day, so try making your afternoon meeting a walking meeting or go for a 10 minute walk on your break.

Question: When I wake up in the morning, I often find I’m not all that hungry and I’m in a rush…what can I eat on the go?

Ideally, a balanced meal should have at least 3 of the 4 food groups. My go-tos are peanut butter and banana toast with a glass of milk or overnight oats (I like to blend fruit with plain Greek yogurt and milk and then add oats and let sit overnight). If you are really crunched for time or can’t stomach a solid meal in the morning, consider having a smaller breakfast of one or two foods, or eat a healthy snack a bit later in the day. I recommend talking to a dietitian to determine the best option for you! You can also check out this great AHS handout for additional breakfast ideas.

Question: I often find myself thirsty during the course of the workday. What tips and tricks do you have for staying hydrated at the office?

Carrying a water bottle with you makes hydrating much easier – the water bottle itself can remind you to drink regularly throughout the day. Some people find adding frozen fruit or lemon wedges to their water a nice way to add a little extra flavor and increase the appeal of the water! You can also use your phone or calendar to ensure you are meeting your water intake goals by setting a reminder to finish and refill your water bottle by lunchtime.

Question: I’m a registered nurse who works day/night shifts on alternating weeks. If I’m working nights, I don’t always eat at ‘regular’ mealtimes. Should I still try to stick to three meals a day? And does eating in the middle of the night interfere with my daytime sleep?

Everyone’s body adjusts differently to working different shifts. Because our bodies tend to slow down activities like digestion during the night, eating your ‘main meal’ before going to work and then having smaller meals or healthy snacks to provide steady energy throughout your shift may be best. It is likely a good idea to avoid a large meal during the night as this may cause heartburn, gas or constipation due to digestion slowing down at night. A sample meal pattern you could try is to eat your main meal before the start of your shift and then aim to eat a healthy snack every three hours during your shift. You may wish to have a light snack before going to bed after your shift as it can be hard to fall asleep when you are either too hungry or too full. As options for food to purchase may be limited during night shifts it will be especially important to plan ahead and pack your own healthy meals and snacks.  Other tips include limiting high sugar or fried foods, staying well hydrated and being mindful of caffeine intake. 

Question: In my office, there are often doughnuts, birthday cake and other sweet treats around, and I find it all a constant temptation. Do you have any suggestions for managing the temptation?

The ideal solution would be working towards creating a healthy eating environment in your workplace. You can do this by encouraging your coworkers to bring healthier alternatives like fruit and vegetable platters or healthy baking into the office instead. It’s always best to lead by example!

You can also try organizing a healthy potluck or a healthy eating challenge to help share the importance of healthy eating with your coworkers. AHS dietitians have created some great resources for healthy potlucks and healthy eating challenges in the workplace (see the Healthy Eating Challenge Toolkit)!

Studies have also shown that the proximity of the treats to us may affect how much of them we will eat. Perhaps there is a lower traffic area the treats can be stocked to help prevent the constant temptation of seeing them all day long. Out of sight, out of mind! Keeping your own healthy snacks on hand can also help curb the temptation of the donuts and cookies in the break room.

Join the conversation, and be inspired to think about your wellness!