I Think I Need a Snack

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Working from home forces us to change our habits and routines. Thinking about possibly going back to work – whether that is permanently or on a hybrid schedule – will force us to adapt once again. This is especially true for maintaining or forming healthy eating habits. You might have been wondering – why can’t I avoid quarantine snacking and multiple trips to the kitchen throughout the day?  

Why have my healthy eating habits changed while working from home? 

  • Our eating schedules might be off or nonexistent, which leads to more grazing than set meals.  

  • We might be replacing our normal breaks of walking to a meeting, the printer, or a colleague’s desk with a trip to the kitchen.  

  • Zoom fatigue leaves our minds craving a break. We might mistake that craving for hunger and reward our minds with a snack instead.   

  • We might have increased anxiety, stress, or boredom, and food gives us comfort and something to do when we are missing our normal activities.  

  • Food might be more accessible at home. At work, you might have to put in more effort to grab a bite, so you have to make a conscious decision to get up and leave your workspace.  

All of these factors are a result of change – change in our environment, routines, and habits. Eating mindfully and creating routines are key for eating well no matter where you work.   

Tips for eating healthy while working remote 

  1. Eat on a schedule. Eating consistent meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.) around the same time every day is good for a number of reasons. 

    • Prevents us from becoming “hangry” or “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger” (Oxford English Dictionary). How difficult is it to make quality food choices when you are extremely hungry? When we get to this point, it’s like our biology takes over, and we are likely to eat anything we can get our hands on.  

    • Skipping meals can lead to snacking and eating more later in the day 

    • Research has shown that individuals with regular eating patterns are more likely to maintain a healthy weight (Ekmekcioglu & Touitou, 2011) and metabolic profile (blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.) (Pot, Hardy, & Stephen, 2014).  

  2. Eat mindfully away from your workspace, TV, phone, and other potential distractors. Eating on a schedule is the first step, but we are more likely to overeat if we are distracted or multitasking at every meal. 

  3. Consider your environment. Avoid setting up your workspace near the kitchen. If you can’t see the goodies on the counter, you might be less tempted to grab them. Rearrange your fridge, pantry, and counter tops so the healthy items are eye level and front and center. Put whole fruit in a bowl on the counter, so this is the first food you see when you enter the kitchen.  

  4. Eat balanced meals. Including healthy proteins, whole grains, fiber, healthy fats and a variety of fruits and vegetables at every meal ensures we are getting adequate nutrition (which provides us energy), and also increase our fullness and satisfaction. Visit liveWELL’s nutrition and weight management page for more resources on healthy eating.  

  5. Plan and prep meals and snacks. This is an important one! Just like I’d recommend to individuals going into work every day, meal planning and preparation is key to set you up for success. Prepping foods ahead of time significantly lowers the chance that you will scrap your original intention of a healthy meal and choose to fill up on chips and salsa instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love chips and salsa, but it’s a snack that is hard to portion and may not leave us full for very long. Prepping foods ahead of time makes the decision for you. You don’t have to stand in front of the fridge and wonder what you’re going to eat or make. Check out our liveWELL Meal Planning Videos for ideas to get you started. 

  6. Drink water. When we are dehydrated, we can mistake this sensation for hunger. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and with meals contributes to fullness and energy.  

  7. Take an activity break. Schedule in multiple breaks throughout the day to get up from your workspace and move your body. Put this on your calendar, a sticky note, or use an app to set reminders. This rewards your mind with a break from the screen and takes food out of the equation.  

How do you get started with these tips? With small, tiny habits. Read my previous blog post on Habit Science to get started with forming new routines and healthy habits. liveWELL is here for you! Contact us today to meet with a health coach for more support on healthy eating and other wellness goals.  

How have your healthy eating habits changed? What habits can you adapt now that will help you when your work routine changes again? Let us know at hr-oe-blog@uiowa.edu.     

References 

Ekmekcioglu, C., & Touitou, Y. (2010). Chronobiological aspects of food intake and metabolism and their relevance on energy balance and weight regulation. Obesity Reviews, 12(1), 14-25. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789x.2010.00716.x 

Pot, G. K., Hardy, R., & Stephen, A. M. (2014). Irregular consumption of energy intake in meals is associated with a higher cardiometabolic risk in adults of a British birth cohort. International Journal of Obesity, 38(12), 1518-1524. doi:10.1038/ijo.2014.51