Time posted this article today, entitled “The Working Person’s Diet: Too Busy To Eat Right.” The article suggests that people are blaming their unhealthy habits and obesity on working long hours and not having enough time in the day to make healthy choices. It also goes as far as to say that “gainful employment could result in poor eating habits.”
This brings me to a quote from a song I heard on the way to work this morning.
“You can only blame your problems on the world for so long, before it all becomes the same old song.” (Fall Out Boy, The Shipped Gold Standard)
The point here is that we have choices. I’m no healthy eating saint, I don’t always make the best choices, but I have come to terms with the fact that the way I eat is ultimately my decision. Whether we’re unemployed or working around the clock, we can all choose what we put into our bodies.
Of course, if you haven’t eaten all day long, you’re starving and it’s 9pm at the office, you might end up eating crap from a vending machine. Realistically, we can’t be prepared 100% of the time. Totally understandable. But if this keeps happening to you over and over, you find yourself complaining about it, and it’s affecting your overall sense of health and well being, it’s not your job’s fault anymore. Do you want to play an active or passive role in your life? It’s time to take charge!
Living and working in New York City, where overachievers abound, I’m surrounded by people who spend a lot of time working. Many of these people are also very active and healthy. It all comes down to planning and being prepared.
That being said, here are a few strategies I’ve used to eat healthy when working long hours. If you’re serious about making healthy changes, none of these are very hard to do.
-Always have healthy snacks on hand. Keep a bag of raw almonds or dried fruit at your desk. If you have to work late, snack on those things instead of getting a candy bar or bag of chips.
-Keep a box of oatmeal packets at work. All you need to make a cup of oatmeal is some hot water. Oatmeal is nutritious and filling, and will tide you over if you can’t leave the office. You could even throw a bag of frozen berries into your office freezer and add those to your oatmeal.
-Drink a LOT of water all day. This will help to keep you from feeling starving, which can cause cravings for sugary foods. Staying hydrated also helps with fatigue, which can be a trigger for snacking.
-Grab a fruit smoothie. If you’re on the run and don’t have time to sit down for a meal, grab a healthy smoothie or a 100% fruit or vegetable juice. The nutrients and vitamins will give you the energy to hold you over until you can get a real meal.
-If you’re stuck at the vending machine with no other choice, get a granola bar, nuts, or whatever is the simplest option – preferably something without a lot of refined sugar or processed cheese flavoring. The less ingredients, the better!
-Make a large batch of food at the beginning of the week, and bring it in Tupperware containers to work all week. Sometimes I make a big batch of plain quinoa on Sunday night, and each day of the week I add something different into it to bring for lunch. Examples of my add-ons are tofu, salsa, mixed vegetables, tahini, etc. This comes in handy, especially if you know you won’t be able to get away from your desk for a lunch break.
-If you’ve got a family to feed, go grocery shopping over the weekend and stock up on healthy foods for the week, so you’ll always have something to eat for dinner and won’t need to resort to ordering unhealthy takeout. Make a couple of dishes that you can freeze and eat throughout the week. Have things like brown rice, quinoa and millet in your cabinets so you can fix up quick dishes with these grains as a base. It’s always great to have fresh vegetables around, but you can also keep some frozen vegetables on hand, since they’ll stick around longer. And hey, you can always grab a copy of Express Lane 30-Minute Meals…
-If you can’t avoid getting takeout for dinner, not all takeout has to be a bad thing. Do some research into restaurants in your area that deliver healthy food. Find a few health food places where you can stop on the way home from work. Even your local pizza joint probably makes big salads.
Try incorporating one of these habits into your busy lifestyle. Busy doesn’t have to equal unhealthy.