Healthy Eating in the Workplace

We’ve hit that time of year where the resolve we had for New Years’ wellness related resolutions, including a desire to eat healthier, has started to fade as it competes with work and other personal demands. As lawyers, we all seek to find enough hours in the day and often are tempted to find ways to save time even at the expense of self-care. Unfortunately, the food choices we make daily are impacted by these efforts, as it is often easier to grab something quick from a drive-thru, multi-task while eating, rely on vending machines, or feed our families a rotation of takeout. While we have less control over how hectic some days will be, we do have control over our ability to be mindful of our food choices and appropriately prepare.

The easiest way to fall back into old habits when it comes to food choices is to fail to plan. This is when we usually end up at a drive-thru or vending machine. Putting a little thought and planning into your week can go a long way and save time during the work week when it matters most. To avoid rushing to the vending machine, plan ahead by adding a few shelf-stable snacks to your grocery list this week. These are items that are perfect for stashing in your desk or bag so that you have a healthy option when crunched for time. Good options include nuts, freeze dried fruit, oranges, applesauce packets, and certain protein bars. Also, when you initially feel the need to snack, try drinking a glass of water first to assess whether you are truly hungry or just thirsty.

To ensure you are prepared with healthy lunches for the week, devote some time during the weekend to prep and pack meals ahead of time. Roasted vegetables, grilled chicken, salads, and homemade soups all pack well. If you have less time for prep, look for items where most of the prep is already complete. Tuna and chicken packets, frozen steam bag vegetables, and pre-cut vegetables are all options for planning ahead for healthy lunches that require less of a time commitment. Additionally, try cooking extra servings of weeknight meals and take the leftovers for lunch. Try not to multi-task while having lunch and instead focus on disconnecting for a few minutes so that you are refreshed when returning to your tasks.

Finally, in the event you take a few minutes for a break during your workday, avoid immediately running to a coffee shop for sugary drinks or pastries. Instead, take a short walk around the block or do light stretches in your office. This gives you an opportunity to refocus and to again assess whether you are actually hungry or just experiencing the stressors of the work day. It never hurts to have an excuse to get moving and get a little exercise in either.

Making healthy eating choices is not only important for our physical health but for our mental health and performance as well. Consuming healthy food is tied to increased energy levels, concentration, and boosted immune function, which we can all use more of. Remember that by helping ourselves, we are better able to help our clients.

Heather K. Miller is associate general counsel at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia.