Healthy eating strategies in the workplace

Healthy eating strategies in the workplace

Ahh, lunchtime at the office. I know the feeling of managing time for yourself while working in an office environment all too well. Work is quick-paced with deadlines looming, packed with meetings that usually go over their scheduled time, and unexpected fire drills. It seems no matter how early you get to work, before you know it, it’s lunch time and you’re hungry.

You might not have had time to pack a lunch, in which case you’re likely finding yourself eyeing up what’s left in the lunch room from morning meetings — which usually either isn’t very appealing, or if it is appealing, you know it’s not a healthy option.

It might even be one of those days when someone is passing around a menu from a fast food lunch place asking if you’d like to place an order. Despite your best efforts at self-control, you are stuck with just needing something quick and easy to ward off hunger to get through the rest of the hectic day. But the average restaurant lunch has more than 1,000 calories and is usually high in salt, fat and additives — not exactly the best option.

4 colleagues eating pizza at work

A growing body of evidence is confirming the connection between our food choices and our mood, attitude and stress levels. A recent study following 71 workplace participants over a three-month period observed improved positive attitudes and moods after lunch when food quality is enhanced. Additionally, better food choices reduce the risk of obesity and chronic illness that keep us from feeling and performing our best at work.

It’s unlikely that we’ll never skip lunch again or that we’ll never go out for lunch again either. But evidence shows that adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to our diet — as well as eating less processed food with all its added sugar and salt — will improve our health. This probably isn’t news to most of us but you might be asking how in the heck you’re going to eat fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains at work while also maintaining the schedule you keep.

Surprisingly, with just a little planning, stocking up on some staples and one small kitchen gadget, you could be enjoying freshly made, delicious lunches that pay big dividends in how you feel both physically and mentally. You will also most likely save money as well. It only takes three little steps.

  1. Get a small, easy-to-use rice cooker with a timer, warming function and removable inner bowl

    I’m not referring to one of those big heavy 15-cup things, but one similar to this. It’s small, weighs just one pound and is easy to store at the office. Used correctly, this one appliance can transform your lunches in no time. Remember, leave the cooker at work and only transport the inner bowl.

    A couple great things about this little appliance is that it will turn off automatically when food is cooked, making it almost impossible to overcook anything. When your lunch is finished, the “cooker” will turn into a “warmer” and will keep your food warm until you’re ready for it. It’s essentially worry-free.

    The warming function is another benefit if you have food left over from another meal and you’d like to bring it to work to warm in your cooker. Just place the food in the inner bowl, turn the rice cooker to warm and your lunch is ready when you are. A side benefit is that you won’t have to stand in line waiting to use a (sometimes not-so-clean) microwave oven at work to warm food.

  2. Decide on a few new things that you would enjoy for lunch

    Once you move beyond leftovers in the lunch room, boring sandwiches from home, or fast food take out, the possibilities are endless. A rice cooker will act as your personal chef and prepares much more than rice. Here are just a few ideas:

    • Rice and vegetables for starters
    • Quinoa salad
    • Chili
    • Soups
    • Curries
    • Warm salads
    • Vegetables with tofu
    • Oatmeal with berries.

    Creative recipes are everywhere on the internet. Just search for “rice cooker recipes” and you’ll be surprised at how many ideas you will find. Here, for example are 21 recipes worth trying from Buzzfeed.

    bird's eye view of bowl of oatmeal and berries
  3. Put your healthful eating strategy to work and enjoy your lunch

    Once you have decided what appeals to you most, get the necessary ingredients the next time you’re at the grocery store. Things like quinoa and rice store easily so stock up on staples in that category. Buy fruits and vegetables (preferably organically grown) in frozen bags. They also store well and can be used as needed. Just scoop out half a cup for recipes and keep the rest in the freezer. Replenish the bags when they’re getting low so you never run out.

    Another strategy that works well is to make food ahead of time and freeze it in a container that is the same size of the inner bowl of your rice cooker. Take one of the meals out of the freezer, loosen it from the frozen container and drop it in the inner bowl of your cooker. Place it in the cooker when you get to work, turn it on and when lunch time arrives it will be fully warmed for you.

I’d love to know if you try this strategy out and how it worked for you. Please leave your comments below — and don’t forget to subscribe to Café Quill for more tips on living your healthiest life.