The idea of tracking food and preparing your meals can seem intimidating to many individuals motivated to live a healthier life. Pick up a copy of 50 Days to Your Best Body Life and suddenly everything comes together- grab the scale and cookbook and bring on the results!
And just when you start to gain momentum, a new variable arises: the workplace. Manic Monday comes around, marking the beginning of the workweek, and the cracks begin to show in your plan for a new healthy life: how do I stay on track with this lifestyle? Let alone with the crazy hours I work?!
Luckily for you, I have been there and have some tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle even with the most hectic of schedules. 14-hour shifts on my feet with no breaks… for 7 days in a row… with a one-way commute time of 1 hour… did I mention I’m on my feet all day?
My first day on the job did not look like present day, food-wise; I’m glad to say that along the way I’ve picked up some neat tricks to stay on track with my nutrition plan, and ENJOY the food (while barely having the time to do so). Here’s my advice to you should you be in a similar conundrum of maintaining your goals at the office:
1. PLAN AHEAD
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” – oh so true! If you’re working a full-time job, or raising a family, or everything in between, things come up unexpectedly. I think they call it “life”? That’s to be expected! Waiting to map out your macros once you’ve clocked in and start your day is only going to add stress to your life. Let me suggest:
- Prepare your meals the night before, or
- Plan your meals on Sunday for the entire week- one and done!
- Allow “wiggle room” for your daily macros if eating out or social gatherings
2. HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven all the way to work, parked my car, and then realized my shaker bottle was at home, or I forgot to pack my protein for the day (oh, the terror!). Learn from my painful lessons:
- Keep some extra “daily staples” that won’t spoil at work, or in your car if you’re working at multiple locations (protein bars etc)
- Invest in some extra supplies: food scale, utensils, shaker cup… buy some duplicates and leave them at the office/car
- Roll with the punches- if you’re planning to eat a big salad and you’re short on time, give yourself options for something simpler (e.g. tuna sandwich)
Believe it or not, while I would love to sit down and mow down a large salad and savor all the green goodness, my work environment does not allow such luxury. How do I get the same benefits, without the crunch? Green smoothies! They are delicious, nutritious, extremely customizable, and phenomenal for on-the-go sustenance. There are thousands of recipes, but I’d like to share one of my favorites:
Revitalizing Rejuva Smoothie
- 2 cups cold water 1. Add water, milk and ice to high-powered blender
- 1 cup almond milk 2. Firmly secure lid, hip frappe
- 5oz spinach 3. Open the flip-cap, add in remaining ingredients
- 6oz romaine lettuce
- 3 stalks celery
- 1oz goji berries
- 1 apple
- 1 pear
- 1 banana
- 3 lemons, juiced
- 12 ice cubes
4. STAY HYDRATED
Too often amidst the hustle and bustle of a workday, we forget to do the basics. One reason that’s often overlooked for ravaging the break room cookies is that you are actually THIRSTY, not hungry. Keeping consistent with your water intake is a simple fix to this issue. Some helpful tips to help you raise your glass:
- “Out of sight, out of mind” has a Gemini twin! Keep a bottle of water where it will always be in your line of sight- in your car cupholder, on your desk, or in your perfectly prepared lunch bag that you made up ahead of time
- Starting the day by filling up a Nalgene® bottle or similar container that has volume markings will help you to know how much you’re sipping (or how much you’re not)
- If none of the above works, try to do what you do with your food: tracking! Penciling in your water consumption will serve as a reminder, keep you motivated, and make you feel accomplished once your target is reached.
5. ENJOY YOURSELF!
If you pack six meals and all of them are the same- then you will probably look for an alternative meal when it’s time to eat. Treat yourself to some variety!
- There are some excellent recipes in the 50 Days book (buy at www.thedietdoc.com)- make several on your meal prep day, portion them out across the week, and you have all the options with less obligation in the kitchen.
- Spice it up! Using different spices is a simple way to mix up your meals with different textures and flavor profiles
- If you always have a grilled chicken breast and broccoli, try making a grilled chicken salad! It’s a simple change, but one to mix up the monotony (and treat your creative side- the possibilities for salad varieties are endless)
Everyone has a different work environment, just as everyone has different fitness goals; I don’t expect you to adapt what has worked for me to work for you, but I hope some of these tips will enable you to create your own meal strategy for maintaining your nutrition at the office, wherever that may be!
Dr. Adam Martin, PharmD is a pharmacist & owner of The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North. Through his work, Martin gets to work with patients on a daily basis to give them the science information and personal support that will empower them to live healthy and happy lives.