How to Eat Healthy in an Office Job: A 6-Step Guide
With proper planning, switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet can add numerous benefits to your health, energy levels, and budget. Although you might already be convinced of all the reasons to maintain a WFPBeating plan, deciding to do so can be a lot easier than actually sticking with it, especially if you work at an office job.
Knowing how to eat healthy in an office job can be tricky, but if you follow these 6 steps, you’ll be able to navigate the pitfalls and temptations that can befall anyone trying to improve their eating in an office environment.
- Avoid Hunger
- Meal Prep
- Become a better chef
- Have snacks available
- Memorize simple, shareable recipes
- Decide on your order before eating out
It’s always easier said than done with advice articles like this, but trust me, I’ve got the real dish on how to stick to your healthy, WFPB lifestyle, so keep reading to find out my secrets!
The “All-or-Nothing” Mythology
A huge myth with adopting healthy eating is that it has to be an all-or-nothing approach, and as soon as you decide to change, it will become easy to simply overcome your previous habits with simple willpower and conviction. However, changing your eating can be a lot more complicated than that.
Part of the reason it can be so hard to change can be internal conflicts, especially once hunger, mood changes, or unhealthy habits start to affect your determination to stick to WFPB eating. When you just aren’t in the mood for the healthy option, nearby temptations can make it seem like not a big deal to eat something you didn’t plan to “just this once.”
In an office environment, those difficulties can be magnified for several reasons. On top of any issues you might be having with weak moments where you can practically rationalize almost any off-plan meal or snack, you’ll have to contend with many other factors that can make adopting a consistent healthy-eating habit seem unlikely.
Why Healthy Eating Can Be Difficult in Office Jobs
Office jobs can be filled with temptations to eat unhealthily for a variety of reasons. Many of the elements of office work are the same ones that, whether at home or out with friends, so often cause people to go off their eating plans and eat or drink something that, when they’re thinking “clearly” they wouldn’t choose.
Many people would say they want their eating choices and habits to be informed by what makes their bodies feel good overall when they sit down and rationally assess their diets.
When it comes down to the actual decision-making time however, other factors come into play that sway their decisions against all the careful plans they may have made previously. There can be several reasons that so many people stray from their convictions about how to eat healthily.
It’s Easy to Talk-the-Talk Until…
For some, their current unhealthy eating can be having hard-to-manage effects on their body, including rapidly swinging blood sugar that sends their hunger drive out of whack and makes them crave the same unhealthy food causing their problems in the first place.
When this happens, their willpower often isn’t enough to overcome a difficult adjustment period when they try to switch to healthy eating.
For others, they might have other motivations, logical or emotional, that are tied up in why they eat specific foods or why they eat at certain times of the day. It can be a lack of education in how to eat properly, misinformation about what their nutritional needs are, emotional ties to certain types of food, or caving to social pressure to eat like the people around them do.
Often, people will have developed mindless eating habits that cause them to either overeat or choose foods that they hadn’t planned to eat. Combined with other issues, mindless eating is the ultimate culprit for eating off-plan.
People who are stuck in the office all day and have to contend with pressure from those around them on top of trying to change their poor habits can find the combination of all these elements a recipe for disaster when trying to eat healthily when they’re at work.
1. Avoid Hunger
When you’re not hungry, planning to stick to a diet can seem much simpler. After all, you’ve weighed all the pros and cons and have solid reasons to back up your new healthy eating plan. You’re a rational adult who wants what’s best for your health and your physical well-being, so why wouldn’t you stick to all your carefully laid plans?
The truth is that hunger is more than just an empty stomach growling for food, and it can be pretty hard to stick to what you know is the right choice if you don’t plan ahead of time. Most people will stray from their eating plan because they assumed that willpower was enough to get them through, even though it hasn’t been in the past.
But former stumble-blocks don’t have to prevent you from healthy eating in the office if you know how to reduce hunger and choose foods that will make you and your body satisfied with your WFPB eating plan. Outsmart your hunger and choose foods that will not only make you feel physically full but will help you not feel hungry an hour after lunch.
Each person’s body will process foods differently. While some might feel sluggish after a carb-heavy meal, others could respond well and feel full of energy after eating the same food. To figure out what types of food will leave your body feeling satisfied and help you stick to your eating plan, you will need to exercise a little trial and error.
When evaluating what you should choose to eat before you head to the office and what to bring or purchase for lunch and snacks while you’re at work, you should focus on three elements of your food to keep hunger at bay:
Eating high fiber foods:
For some people, their energy levels can suddenly drop off after a meal, which is likely the result of fluctuating blood sugar. Increasing your fiber intake can help combat the afternoon drowsiness after lunch and help you stay alert and energetic at work throughout the entire day.
Eating plenty of protein:
Of the three macronutrients, fat, protein, and carbohydrates, protein has been shown to ward off hunger the longest after meals. If you often feel the need to eat soon after a meal, especially ones that are higher in carbs, try to incorporate foods like tofu, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts, and other beans into your meals.
Eating high volume foods:
If you’re someone who simply needs to feel physically full after a meal, focusing on healthy eating and stopping a constant grazing habit can feel restrictive. Focus on eating high-volume vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, zucchini, peppers, and fruits to have satisfying meals during your workday.
Regardless of what combination ends up suiting your body’s needs best, always make sure you’re getting enough calories to sustain your daily activities. If you’re a high-volume eater and are finding it hard to get in enough calories to have enough energy to get through the day, don’t be afraid to throw in some healthy fats to round out your diet.
Fresh avocado and sauces and dressings made from olive oil can have great health benefits while adding needed calories to lower calorie, high volume vegetables. As long as you’re eating food that keeps your hunger manageable and provides the appropriate nutrition for your body, you’ll get to experience the physical and mental benefits eating WFPB can offer.
2. Meal Prep
Once the workweek starts, maintaining your energy and productivity to stick to new habits can become difficult if you don’t make sure to employ some strategic planning. As many of us have probably experienced with trying to start a new hobby, actually dedicating time before and after to work to unplanned tasks can be challenging.
That’s especially true for making eating healthy part of our daily routine, which is why meal prepping can be a great solution for sticking to your commitment to WFPB eating during the week. If you choose a couple of simple, enjoyable recipes to prepare before the start of each week, you’ll ensure that saying “Yes!” to your new eating plan is a no-brainer when each day arrives.
Before you start meal prepping, test out a few easy recipes that will incorporate fresh, healthy food that you enjoy eating. See how they fare over a few days in the fridge and pick out ones that you know you’ll want to eat when breakfast and lunchtime come each workday.
Variety is Key!
Try to avoid choosing only one recipe. Healthy meals should be thought of as something to look forward to and not a reason to cut out all the pleasure of eating a good meal.
Once you know what recipe you want to start meal prepping for each week, plan your grocery shopping around the amounts of each ingredient that you’ll need so that you don’t have excess food that goes to waste. Also, you should consider what kinds of storage and heating options, such as a fridge and microwave, you have access to when you’re at work when making your choices.
Make sure you have everything you need to prep, cook, and store your food so having the right meals each day becomes simple and manageable even when you’re tired, stressed, or running late. Over time, meal prepping can become a natural part of your routine, and you can use regular test-runs with new recipes to develop your WFPB palate and cooking abilities.
3. Become a Better Chef
As you rely on meal prepping to make your daily eating habits easier to maintain at work, you should also work on developing your skills in the kitchen. If you want to maintain healthy eating in your life, you need to invest time in making your meals enjoyable and varied so that it’s not something you dread every day.
By scheduling time to try new recipes regularly, you’ll be able to improve your cooking skills in a manageable way and put work that allows you to better commit to WFPB eating as a lifestyle.
Once you’ve put time and effort into knowing how to make your meals delicious, you’ll be less tempted to go off your eating plan because you’ll have a clear idea of exactly what amazing healthy options are out there.
Making Meal Prep More Fun
At the start of your healthy eating transition, if cooking a variety of recipes is overwhelming, try finding meal prep buddies so that each of you can prepare a different meal and everyone can swap and try different recipes at one time. If that option doesn’t work, you can look for meal prep services in your area to try new recipes until you have the time and inspiration to do it yourself.
When bulk shopping for meal preps each week, plan on buying small amounts of new ingredients so you can try at a manageable pace. Once you make cooking and caring about what you eat fun, it will be easier for you to stick to in the long run. These skills will ultimately make your office mealtimes more likely to stay healthy.
Additionally, you can incorporate seasonally available fruits and vegetables into your grocery shopping to develop a well-rounded palate and plate. Look for local farmers’ markets and help support your area. As you narrow down your produce options each season, you can spend different seasons developing your cooking skills with the different kinds of produce available.
By the time a year has passed, you’re sure to have a wide variety of reliable recipes that you love in your back pocket, and you’ll be familiar with the best ways to eat an enjoyable and satisfying WFPB diet that fits your body, lifestyle, and preferences.
4. Have Snacks Available
Although you may plan the “perfect” breakfasts and lunches, there will still be times when hunger sneaks up on you. Maybe you started a more vigorous exercise routine or maybe you had poor sleep the night before, there are a million reasons unexpected hunger can arise, so you should be prepared for it.
Always keep healthy snacks on hand to have for your regular and your “emergency” snacking in the office. If you make sure to keep them accessible, whether in your office, desk, purse, car, or office break room, you’ll be sure to have a healthy alternative to the nearby convenience store, the office vending machine, or the free donuts someone brought in that day.
Going off eating plans can easily happen when you focus on what you “can’t” eat or what you “shouldn’t” have. Don’t go through a cycle of blame or restricting. Instead, understand that you’ll have times that the readily available snacks in the office don’t fit your goals.
Strategize for Optimal Snackage
Anticipate those moments rather than relying on willpower alone to get you through random hunger or cravings. Pick snacks that are easy to have on-hand such as perishables like nuts, dried fruits, and low-processed snack bars.
If your office has a shared fridge available, you can bring in food like dairy-free yogurt, vegetables with dip, or peanut butter with apple slices. You can even bring popcorn kernels in reusable microwave bags to have as a fun, convenient office snack to share.
Simple, fun snacks will allow you to enjoy the benefits of your eating plan as well as the food itself. Transitioning to healthy eating shouldn’t solely be about doing everything “right,” but it should complement and enhance your life. While others may be split on the necessity of snacking in a healthy diet, do what makes you and your body happy while eating foods that will help you take care of your body.
As you improve your cooking skills over time, you can even try to swap out any lingering packaged foods you’re still relying on for office snacks with someone DIY alternatives. Making homemade vegetable chips or baked bars can be an easy way to minimize the amount of processed food you’re eating and save some money.
5. Memorize a Simple, Shareable Recipe
Another office pitfall to healthy eating can be the tendency for companies to host potluck meals or events. When everyone is bringing in their favorite potluck dish, being the odd-man-out can be uncomfortable. If others have noticed your changing diet, you might even get so not-so-subtle comments about what you’re choosing to put on your plate.
Have a plan in place for potlucks, because social pressure can be one of the biggest downfalls to eating healthy, especially if you work in an office. Knowing in advance what go-to, simple recipe you’ll bring can help you in two ways:
- You’ll already be guaranteed to have something that fits your meal plan to eat at the potluck.
- You’ll potentially be able to show curious coworkers that your diet has room for fun and delicious recipes while still being healthy, which may just lessen any pushback you’re getting about your new habits.
The more you normalize how you’re eating, the more you can potentially lessen how different your way of eating is to your coworkers, which might lessen how often they pressure you to eat something that you’re not interested in having.
When people decide to make a change in how they’re eating, unfortunately, those around them can react negatively for a variety of reasons. Food can be tied to a lot of emotional undercurrents, and people can feel the need to pressure others to take part in social gatherings in the same way as them by focusing on what they’re eating.
Bringing a simple, shareable WFPB dish to your next work potluck can be an easy way to show that, even if you’re eating differently than those around you, you’re still interested in contributing to social gatherings in your office.
If people still pressure you when you’re already taking part, well, then you can respond that you’re already happy with what’s on your plate, and there’s not much more either of you can do about that. Just remember why you’ve chosen to eat the way you do and stick to your pre-planning and a charitable sense of humor to get through any nagging social pressure from your peers.
6. Decide on Your Order Before Eating Out
Many people who want to eat healthy believe that swearing off eating out is the answer, but that’s not always a realistic goal to set, especially if you work in an office environment. Part of developing a sustainable healthy eating plan is anticipating what you’ll choose to eat when conditions are ideal.
While preparing your food at home would be the optimal scenario for ensuring you’re getting a meal that meets your nutritional needs, just as you should anticipate temptations to eat off-plan, you should also anticipate times where a home-cooked meal or a snack simply isn’t an option.
Think ahead and figure out which restaurants or locations have options near your office and are likely to be used for office meals out or catered meetings or events. There will likely be times where you have to work late, weren’t able to bring a prepped meal, or are having a catered meeting where lunch is ordered.
In those scenarios, you need to have a plan in place to ensure that you are eating according to your meal plan. Studies have shown that if you know what you’re going to order before the time comes to making the decision, you’re much more likely to make a healthy choice.
Be practice and make sure that any catering options that your office uses have options that accommodate your WFPB eating plan. When it comes to eating at restorations around your office, decide what you’ll order and stick to it when the time comes.
Remember that you’re making these choices to improve your life and promote your health, so don’t think of it as restricting your options but instead as prioritizing your health and your personal goals ahead of momentary (and fleeting) gratification.
Eating healthy in the office can be difficult because of poor habits, social pressure, and frequent temptations. When you combine the goal of eating healthy at work with wanting to maintain a WFPB diet, the difficulties can seem insurmountable, but planning for and anticipating the challenges can make them seem much smaller and easier to overcome once those issues arise.
A big pitfall people can face is that they think healthy eating has to be all or nothing. Don’t feel like you have to become the perfect WFPB chef all at once. Allow yourself to learn in stages, as you’ll be able to develop skills and learn how to make healthy eating a natural part of your everyday life.
If having convenient tools like packaged, low-processed, plant-based foods helps you stay on track at the start, remember that that’s still progress, and progress is much better than giving up at the first sign of perceived “failure.”
While you’re feeling “hangry” or fighting cravings, it might seem impossible that you’ll ever reach a point where eating WFPB will feel easy, but your habits and taste buds will adapt over time as you retrain them to appreciate natural, healthy food that’s good for
your body and mind.
Staying on Track Gets Easier with Practice
As you develop your skills as a WFPB chef, you’ll learn to love the food you’re eating and know how to navigate the tricky aspects of eating healthy when working in an office. From the frequent free snacks to potlucks to ordering out, you’ll gradually develop all the skills you’ll need to stick to your healthy eating plan for good.
Once all of your healthy-eating routines become second nature, including meal prepping, grocery shopping, and keeping healthy snacks on hand, all the currently difficult or unfamiliar tasks will blend into the background of your life until it’s just what you do every day.
During the adjustment period, while you’re still feeling the growing pains of newly prioritizing health eating in the office, don’t expect perfection from yourself. Start with simple meals if you’re currently an amateur in the kitchen and work your way up from there. By making each stage of the transition easy, you’ll set yourself to meet each challenge successfully.
If you take it easy on yourself, you’ll be able to enjoy the process of learning while developing the skills you need to maintain healthy eating no matter what the circumstances. By taking the time to pre-plan your eating, you’ll be taking proactive steps to take control of your health and your goals.
That level of planning and commitment to your goals will translate to other areas of your life, too, as you increasingly enjoy the benefits that eating WFPB has on your body, mind, energy, and emotions.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS