Updated: Apr 2, 2020
By Brandee Ellis, MS, RDN, CDN, Balance Integration Wellbeing Consultant
If you embrace it, working from home is a great opportunity to experiment with and tune into your personal nutritional needs – both during the workday and overall.
Don't let an altered schedule or proximity to the pantry disrupt your nutrition. Forgetting to eat or drink, or snacking on the wrong foods, can leave you feeling full, guilty, tired, dehydrated and unmotivated. Here are 9 nutrition tips to help you stay nourished and focused through your new remote reality.
1. Keep healthy foods in view.
Whatever you see, you will likely eat. So keep the fruits and veggies in your line of sight. RD secret: Dice up some fresh veggies in the morning and leave them on the cutting board. This way, when you do wander into the kitchen, you’ll be most likely to grab what’s right in front of you. If it helps, keep a slice of lemon nearby and freshen your vegetables up with a citrus-y squeeze before each bite. If you do indulge in a favorite snack, that’s OK! Just keep it behind closed (cabinet) doors to help reduce visual temptation.
2. Don’t overestimate your caloric needs.
Given an absence of commuting, office socializing, and walking to and from meetings, your movement when working remotely is limited, which means you may not be as hungry. That’s OK! Try not to eat just to eat – instead, tune into what and how much you need. Overeating will make you tired, though you shouldn’t skip meals either to avoid a low energy or sugar reaction. For a light option that won’t weigh you down but keep you energized, choose a high nutrient, low calorie snack, like non-starchy veggies (cucumbers, peppers, celery, radish, etc.).
3. Sharpen your chef knives.
This is a good time to ramp up your chef skills. Not only will it save you money, you can start to play with portion sizes and ingredients. Pay attention to which meals leave you feeling both satisfied and energized. Need some ideas? Check out the New York Times 30 best lunch-at-home recipes. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Creativity can go a long way in keeping you happy when isolated.
4. Plan your meals.
They don’t have to be complicated. And if you don’t have time to make full meals, just make one ingredient such as the protein or the vegetable side – you may find that you’ll be more motivated to put something healthy together if you don’t have to start from scratch.
5. Have a healthy back-up plan.
If you feel too tired or stretched to cook, consider stocking your kitchen with easy-to-make items like bagged salads, steam-able microwave veggies and pre-cooked meats such as a roasted chicken. Pair them together quickly and easily (roasted chicken with a side of steamed broccoli or baked salmon with roasted asparagus).
Making an extra portion or two when cooking could help you with lunch and dinner the next day. If there’s a lot, freeze it! Or just create an easy-grab plate for your next meal.
Whether quarantined or not, keeping frozen vegetables around is a great idea. Since frozen produce is packaged at its peak ripeness, it’s still teaming with nourishment. Throw it into a smoothie or to round out an otherwise colorless dish. Since you don’t have to worry about the veggies spoiling, you can portion to your liking.
6. Set a prompt to stay hydrated.
Similar to being less hungry, you may not be as thirsty during your new reality, as there are fewer signals to take a sip. Plus, when you’re in the zone, it’s easy to let time pass without drinking. Set a timer or an alert for every couple of hours to go fill up your glass or bottle. Otherwise, you may find yourself feeling low energy, cranky or down – all signs of being slightly dehydrated.
7. Practice mindful eating.
Have you ever finished a meal, looked down at your plate and thought Where did the rest of my meal go? That’s what happens when you multitask while you eat. If possible, resist the urge to work or watch TV during mealtime. The reason is that it dilutes satiety, meaning you won’t feel as satisfied once you’re done, which may lead you to consume excess calories that your mind wants but body doesn’t need. Focusing on each bite will help quell both emotional and physical hunger pangs. Exercises to help you fully enjoy your food include silently noting your food to yourself before each bite (“pepper” or “bite of turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion”) or counting how many times you chew eat bite. You can also try one of these mindful eating exercises on SoundCloud.
8. Make a virtual lunch date.
Plan a lunch date on Teams, Zoom, Google Meet or Houseparty with your friends or colleagues – though no work talk if the latter. You don’t have to have an agenda, just be together virtually and let the conversation flow naturally, as if you were sitting together at a table. Refueling in a social environment is a great way to both physically and emotionally recharge simultaneously.
9. Get the family involved.
If you’re a parent working from home with children, you’re likely managing multiple schedules. Get in a little time with them and fill up a block on their daily calendars by planning to prep meals together. Consider it a learning activity for them, and some functional family time for you. Bonus thought: Now is a great time to use up all those boxes of Betty Crocker in your cabinet.