Being a busy professional with a full-time job, every second in your day is important. In addition to time management, it is also important to eat healthy. This may seem like a challenge, given the fast pace you need to work at. In addition, long hours of commute, home responsibilities etc. can take its toll on you. Sometimes meetings extend through the lunch hour or you may need to stay at office and work for 2-3 hours beyond your shift. After a long day, you feel mentally and physically drained. And while a healthy home cooked meal sounds heavenly, you just do not have the energy and time to prepare anything. The next best option would be to reach out for a ready to eat snack or meal, like instant noodles. Big mistake! Although this may be a convenient option, you need something healthy to nourish your body. An unhealthy diet can lead to tiredness which then negatively affects work productivity and yields poor results.
Working on night or rotational shifts can upset the circadian rhythm of your body and throw your hunger hormones out of sync. This can then lead to unhealthy snacking and weight gain.
Some employers are making efforts to ensure the availability of healthy food choices at office cafeterias. For those working late or at night shifts, employers need to keep both the safety of their staff and their wellbeing in mind. It is important that employees have enough time (at least 30 minutes) to eat their lunch. Certain companies also have gym facilities at their campuses. Along with this they may provide talks on nutrition and health from time to time. This is important considering that long sedentary working hours, extended hours and shift work is one of the causes of weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
A few simple tips can help you eat healthy despite your busy work schedule
Never skip breakfast
Breakfast is often skipped due to lack of time. It is the most important meal of the day and should not be missed. Skipping this meal, leads to lack of concentration and energy as the day progresses. To prevent this, it is important you prepare beforehand. You can do something simple like preparing a few extra chapathis or keeping aside a portion of daal or sabji from the previous night’s dinner. This can double up as a breakfast option for the next morning. If you have time to prepare breakfast in the morning, but do not get time to eat at home, pack it up and bring it along to office. Once you log in and settle down, you can take a few minutes off and have breakfast.
Plan and prepare ahead
Try planning a menu for the week. This should include healthy choices from all food groups- Protein, Cereals, Fruit and Vegetable, Dairy and Healthy fat. Planning gives you more clarity and helps you save time. If you cook in the morning, you can chop vegetables and keep them in Ziploc packets in the fridge. Soak daals overnight to reduce on cooking time in the morning.
Healthy snacks spaced between meals can help keep your energy levels up. You can pack and carry snacks from home or choose healthy snacks from the office cafeteria. Healthy snacks include- Baked khakra, a small idli with a cup of sambhar, roasted and unsalted channa, sukka bhel (with lots of vegetables and sprouts), a whole fruit or a cup of mixed fruit etc. Avoid deep fried snacks like samosas, or sandwiches laden with mayonnaise. A whole wheat sandwich with a healthy vegetable filling is a better alternative. Keep healthy snacks at hand, in case your work timings stretch, or you have a meeting that cuts into your lunch- break, you do not need to go hungry.
Water is important to be well hydrated. Sometimes the body mistakes dehydration for hunger. You end up consuming extra calories, leading to weight gain. Keep a bottle at your desk and sip from it regularly. Other beverages that help in hydration include- tender coconut water, buttermilk and fresh unsweetened fruit juice.
A lot of harried employees depend on coffee to keep them alert and awake, especially on night shifts. While it provides a surge in energy and keeps you alert, too much of caffeine affects the nervous system making you restless and irritable. This is because caffeine acts as a stimulant. If you do feel sleepy, get away from your desk for a few minutes. Take a walk or stretch. You can walk over to the filter and have a drink of water. A change of place can keep you better focussed.
A colleague’s birthday, team lunches, working lunches, conferences… these can also come along with unhealthy food options. 1 slice of a 3-layered black forest cake can amount to 250 or more calories! A vegetable samosa clocks in roughly 80- 100 kcal, is deep fried and made of maida. On such occasions, it is important to make wise choices. A team lunch can offer a variety of foods and it is easy to overeat while not even thinking about it. This places a load on your digestive system. After sitting at your desk, you feel extremely drowsy and cannot keep your eyes open! Try to go for healthy choices. Start with a soup and include a good amount of salads as well.
While you invest a lot of your time and energy into your work, your body needs fuel to keep you going. A healthy diet, good sleep, being well hydrated can all keep you healthy and enable you to work to your maximum potential. It is high time you invest in yourself!
With inputs from:
1. Escoto KH, Laska MN, Larson N, Neumark-Sztainer D, Hannan PJ. Work Hours and Perceived Time Barriers to Healthful Eating Among Young Adults. American journal of health behavior. 2012;36(6):786-796. doi:10.5993/AJHB.36.6.6.