Jermaine Izukanne, physiologist at AXA PPP healthcare

Top tips for healthy eating when working from home

27 March 2020

Working from home is becoming more common for many people, but along with the positives of home working comes a slightly out of kilter routine, especially meal times, which can easily be skipped in favour of snacks and convenient go-to food that we might not usually eat (or eat so much of). It soon becomes the norm to reach for the quick snacks (especially if you’re working at the kitchen table!), forgetting lunch entirely and eating dinner late. 

If you feel like your usual balanced diet has gone out the window since working from home, Jermaine Izukanne, Physiologist at AXA PPP healthcare, shares his top nutrition tips to get you on track.

1. Prep in advance

One benefit of working from home is that you don’t have to endure the commute to and from work. Why not use some of that time to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks that you can have readily available to you when you’re working? That way, you won’t be mindlessly grabbing whatever you can lay your hands on, or not bothering with anything at all when you’re busy.

Making the majority of your meals from scratch is a great way to keep on top of what you’re eating and making sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, simply because you know what is going in them.  It’s likely that they’ll also be better for you than convenience foods or ready meals, which may contain high levels of unhealthy fats, salt and additives. Not only that, but preparing your meals in advance will leave you more time to be productive when working, especially on busy days, or to enjoy a proper break, without having to think about what you’re going to eat. Meal prepping is a great job for a Sunday afternoon.

2. Start the day with  a breakfast high in protein and fibre

Protein and fibre are two key components for a healthy diet, particularly at the start of the day. This is because they’re some of the most satiating foods that are available (1). These foods can help us to feel satisfied (full) for longer, so we’re less likely to snack during the morning. They also provide essential nutrients to fuel our working day, and they’re versatile too! See the examples below.

Porridge oats, whole grains, black beans (yes, really!), butter beans, avocado, eggs and tofu are all great breakfast choices.

Why not give these a go:

  • Rolled oats topped with chia seeds, walnuts and blueberries
  • Avocado topped eggs on toast
  • Tofu scramble on toast

3. Before grabbing a snack, question whether you’re actually hungry, or just in need of a distraction

It might be helpful to ask yourself this question when you next crave something like a chocolate bar or packet of crisps, especially when it’s not long since your last meal.  We can sometimes eat as a result of our emotions, using so-called ‘comfort foods’ to fill an emotional gap rather than to refuel. Being bored or stressed are common triggers for this sort of behaviours and, in these worrying times, confined to home and away from colleagues, we may be more likely to experience these sorts of feelings. If this is the case, look into trying to curb your boredom. Take a break if you can, or occupy yourself with work or phoning a colleague. Equally, know that it’s okay to have an extra snack – working from home may take a lot of adjustment so be kind to yourself and acknowledge that a few days (or weeks!) where you learn what your body needs in the new environment is okay. Having pre-prepared, healthier snacks can really help, and have the added bonus of making you feel nourished and energised.

Drinking a tall glass of water could also do the trick as you may well just be thirsty! , Plus, it’ll help keep you hydrated, which is essential for aspects of cognitive function such as concentration, alertness and short-term memory (4).

4. Try and choose healthy snacks to nourish your body and mind

Snacking in between meals is always encouraged if you do feel yourself getting hungry, but it’s important to think about what to eat.  The foods we most commonly associate as snacks tend to be high in added sugars, salt and saturated fat. Whilst they can provide us with some short term energy these sorts of foods offer little to no nutritional benefit and can promote obesity (2). Instead it’s best to prioritise more nutrient dense snacks such yoghurt, nuts, seeds, fruit and veg (3). Homemade juices and smoothies are also a good choice as they’re an easy way to incorporate lots of fruit and vegetables into your diet, feel like a filling snack and also help you stay hydrated. Just be mindful that fruit juices can be loaded with sugars so try to steer towards vegetable juices or at least include one or more vegetable elements in the mix. Carrots, celery and cucumber are all good options.

5. Try to eat during scheduled breaks, rather than while you’re actually working.

Eating while carrying out work duties, being on the phone or checking your emails can all lead to what is known ‘mindless eating’. This is when we eat without paying attention to what or how much we’re consuming. This can be especially detrimental when snacking and quickly lead to overeating. Instead, when it comes to mealtimes, particularly when you’re eating solo, try to make that your sole focus. Pay attention to every bite and savour the taste, smell and texture and enjoy all the pleasure that food can offer!

While working from home provides us with certain benefits and freedoms we wouldn’t experience in the office, the lack of structure to our day can sometimes affect the way we eat.   But by focussing on maintaining a balanced diet, nourishing our bodies (and feeding the soul) we can reap the health benefits no matter our surroundings.

References:

1. Chambers et al. Optimising foods for satiety. Trends in Food Science & Technology. Vol. 41, 2. February 2015.

2. Popkin et al. Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews. Vol 68, 8. August 2010. 

3. Hingle et al. Selecting Nutrient-Dense Foods for Good Health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Vol 116, 9. September 2016.

4. Hess et al. The Nutrient Density of Snacks. Global Pediatric Health. March 2017.

Further resources

Looking after yourself during self-isolation - AXA PPP healthcare

Being productive when working from home - AXA PPP healthcare

Staying connected when working remotely  - AXA PPP healthcare

Staying positive during adversity  - AXA PPP healthcare

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