Not leaving the house to “go to work” seems great on paper. You picture the super short commute, flexibility, and comfort of knowing you could work in sweatpants if you wanted to. However, the work-from-home balance can be easily disrupted when loved ones are home and need caring for, schools are closed, or any other stressful situation has you feeling unsettled. This combination of a shift in your usual and greater stress can undoubtedly lead to unhealthy eating patterns. That said, even on the best “work from home” day, we need a strategy for keeping our meals in check, our body properly nourished, and our bored appetites out of the kitchen.
What’s on the menu?
It’s easy to wing it when we’re home and the schedule isn’t filled with appointments, meetings, and other tasks that have us out of the house for several hours. Of course, even a work from home day can have you stuck at the computer in a steady stream of virtual meetings. Either way, if we don’t plan our meals, we can find ourselves having an imbalanced day and missing out on key nutrition. Equally as important is the potential for becoming hungry before you have a plan, which often results in a quick, less healthy meal unless you have convenient options on hand.
Make time to prep…every day.
Let’s make sure there are healthy, convenient options available. Make a time every day that you can get into the kitchen to marinate meat, chop veggies, and engage in other simple prep that sets the stage for effortless meals that come together easily. The benefit of working from home is that you can also take this a step further and prepare longer cooking whole grains that we sometimes are unable to enjoy during a busy week. Both slow cookers and electric pressure cookers are ideal for setting grains up to cook while you’re getting other work done.
Pack a lunch.
Whether working from home is new for you or your usual routine, it’s likely still best to arrange lunch ahead of time and have it ready to go. Otherwise, on a busy day you’re far more likely to snack or grab quick bites instead of nourishing yourself well during the day. If you are working from home when your family is around, you will no doubt want to do this for them too so that they interrupt you less. Also, please don’t forget to drink throughout the day! Not only is hydrating essential for wellness, but also, thirst is often confused for hunger.
You’re building a foundation.
This brings us to the next important consideration. Let’s think of our daytime eating as the key to controlling hunger and preventing excessive evening/nighttime eating. If you eat an appropriate lunch and a sensible afternoon snack, you will feel more in control and less likely to overeat in the evening.
So what is a sensible snack? It’s planned, deliberate, and includes food that may not be part of your meals or that you possibly need more of. For example, fresh fruit or vegetables paired with a small handful of nuts/nut butter or cheese. Or maybe it’s plain Greek yogurt blended with frozen wild blueberries. Snacks that are balanced with a bit of protein (like cheese, beans, edamame) or heart healthy fat (like nuts, seeds, avocado) are best for controlling hunger. If you want a roadmap to snacks that bridge meals, revisit the chart of ideas I compiled for our Snack Healthy webinar. And remember, especially if you want to include more prepared foods in your day, looking for foods that earn 1, 2, or 3 Guiding Stars is a helpful way to quickly grab for the best nutrition.
A final note
If you’re used to working outside the home or commuting between work and home then you may be missing that time to shift from one life to the other. The watercolor of blended tasks that can come with working from home can be tough and bring additional stress into your evening. I recommend picking a time to “leave work” and transitioning somehow into being “home” and to consider dietary choices to help you manage stress and emotions you may be feeling.