Eating healthy at work impacts your overall physical and mental well-being which, in turn, leads to better productivity, focus, and—ultimately—success.
Incorporating the right foods into your meals at work can be truly transformative to your day.
And it doesn’t have to be boring, either. Eating healthy at work can be enjoyable, simple, and impactful.
Here’s why it matters so much, plus six tips to make it simple and sustainable in the long-run
Mind-Body Benefits: The Case for Eating Healthy at Work
You already know that eating a well-rounded diet of nutritious foods is good for you. It’s an essential part of overall well-being and wellness in the workplace. So, we’re not going to harp on it too much. Instead, let’s look at the why.
Why is eating healthy at work (and home) so key for your overall health and well-being? And, how does it impact your professional performance? There are a few key reasons:
- Optimal nutrition: Eating a well-balanced diet ensures you have the appropriate nutrients for optimal brain and body function. We need vital nutrients like amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to just function at a base level, let alone an optimal level. For that reason, getting the right nutrients is foundational for any professional looking to feel and perform better.
- Brain-boosting benefits: To take it a step further and reach optimal health, you can specifically incorporate foods that have brain-boosting benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are found in fatty fish and nuts and have been linked to improved cognitive function and reasoning. We’ll explore more foods with specific brain-boosting powers below.
- Energy levels: How do you feel after a cup of coffee? Or after not having a cup of coffee? There are direct impacts on your energy levels. And this is the same for foods that contain, for example, high levels of sugar or not enough satiating protein. The food you eat dramatically impacts your energy levels throughout the day and, therefore, how you’re able to work.
- Health outcomes: Our diets are also linked to short and long-term health outcomes. The health benefits of healthy eating at work and at home include increased immunity, stronger bones and muscles, healthy skin, eyes, and teeth, and a decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or some cancers.
All this means is that the benefits of eating healthy at work and home helps you feel and function your best, both today and in the future. And when you feel and function your best, you perform your best.
Balance and Brainpower: Two Healthy Eating Priorities
When we talk about eating healthily at work, it’s important to acknowledge that this is different for each person.
Some people have food restrictions or limitations for health reasons while others subscribe to certain diets for personal, physical, or ethical reasons.
That said, there are two general principles of how to eat healthy at work that all people can benefit from.
1. Building a Balanced Diet
The biggest focus area for how to eat healthy at work is building balanced meals. This generally means including:
- Protein-rich options for satiety: Lean meats, fish, beans, tofu, etc.
- Complex carbohydrates for energy: Rice, oats, starchy vegetables, whole grains, etc.
- Fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals: Get in all your essential micronutrients with foods like leafy greens, berries, avocados, apples, carrots, stone fruit, etc.
- Water for hydration: Coffee, tea, and soft drinks are allowed, too, but ensure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day.
- Food you enjoy for pleasure: Eating healthy at work doesn’t have to be boring or unenjoyable. A balanced meal always includes food you enjoy, too.
2. Incorporating Health “Superfoods”
As you build out your balanced meals, consider some of these specific “superfoods” that boost a healthy diet:
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats and protein, which can help improve brain function.
- Greek yogurt: Not only does it contain calcium and protein to keep you full, but yogurt also has live cultures of probiotics that can support gut health. Just make sure you look for brands that have “live active cultures” in them.
- Whole grains: Foods like quinoa, oatmeal, or brown rice are good sources of fiber and contain B vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
- Avocado: Packed with healthy fats, avocados can improve concentration and memory.
- Green tea: This beverage contains caffeine and L-theanine, which can enhance alertness and concentration without the jitters associated with coffee.
- Leafy greens: Add spinach or kale to your lunch to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can support brain function.
- Salmon and other fatty fish: Fish is an excellent source of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for optimal health.
6 Tips to Make Eating Healthy at Work Simple and Sustainable
Following these two healthy eating principles requires some planning and preparation, especially if you want to reap the benefits of eating healthy at work.
It’s tempting to go out and grab some take-out food or simply snack all day instead of making a meal when you’re focused at work. But if you set yourself up for success by planning ahead, you can meet your healthy eating goals.
Here are six tips to try:
1. Meal prep once a week
Meal prep is one of the best strategies for how to eat healthy at work. Basically, you pick one day of the week (many people prefer Sundays) and batch-cook meals in advance. You could literally do breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or just focus on what’s hardest (i.e., lunchtime and your goals of how to eat healthy at work!)
Pro tip: Use #mealprep on your social media platform of choice for some inspiration. There are many content creators who share their meal prep plans and recipes so you don’t have to start from scratch.
2. Keep a “snack box” in the fridge or pantry
Make snacks easy by setting up a grab-and-go box in your fridge and pantry. This could include things like:
- Single-serve yogurt cups.
- Pre-cut and portioned veggies and fruit.
- Cheese and meat packages.
- Granola or protein bars.
Prep these snacks along with your weekly meal prep and keep them stocked at all times. Then, when it’s time to head to work or take a break during your day, you have easy snack options on hand.
3. Use a meal prep service
If you struggle to find time for meal prep and are willing to spend a bit more, consider using a meal prep service. There are different options to choose from, such as:
- Ingredients and recipes only: You get a box of ingredients and prep the meal yourself (typically the cheaper option). Popular options include Home Chef, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, or Green Chef.
- Fully prepped and portioned meals: You get pre-made meals that just need to be heated up while at work (typically the more expensive option). Popular options include Factor, Veestro, or Thistle.
4. Do it together
Like any healthy habit change, it’s easier when you’re doing it alongside other people. So if your aim is to start eating healthy at work, consider talking to friends and family about your plans. They can join you, keep you accountable, and help with meal prep and planning.
You may also find that it helps boost work-team dynamics by striving towards the same goal with other colleagues who are also interested in how to eat healthy at work.
You can also join online groups on Facebook or elsewhere to find a community of others looking to increase their healthy eating at work. This is a great option for sharing tips, ideas, and recipes.
5. Shop strategically
Eating healthy at work really starts with your shopping trip. Before you can make good choices while meal prepping or choosing something to eat, you need to make good choices at the grocery store.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Always bring a shopping list with you, ideally based on your meal plan for the week.
- Don’t shop while you’re hungry—it always leads to extra items in the cart!
- Order groceries online and have them delivered to avoid impulse buying.
6. Be flexible and have fun
Our last tip for how to eat healthy at work is to leave room for flexibility and fun. That means joining in on a post-work happy hour or lunch out with your colleagues. It’s okay to indulge and enjoy some great food once in a while. Don’t be so strict with yourself that you lose sight of the ultimate goal: building a healthy and balanced life so you feel and function your best.
Eating healthy at work might be a big shift, but it’s an important one. The benefits of eating healthy at work include better productivity and focus, stable energy levels, and short or long-term health.
So, focusing on a balanced diet and specific brain-boosting health foods helps you feel and function your best, at work and in your everyday life.
If you’re looking for a workspace that prioritizes your health, wellness, productivity, and a more well-rounded lifestyle, book a tour of The Colab Space today.