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Health & Fitness Lifestyle

Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits with a Sedentary Job

Well this is my second time writing this post! After SiteGround failed to save my draft… here I am blundering through this article again, hoping I can remember all the stuff I wrote down the first time.

So while I am cursing the gods, I hope you enjoy!

Over the past few months of working, I’ve come to adore my desk job. I love settling down into my chair, with my heater blasting at my feet and my headphones in. I can sip at coffee endlessly all day and I never feel physically exhausted. As someone who’s always worked in kitchens and landscaping- I appreciate a job where I can relax.

But it does concern me how little I move during the day. My Fitbit constantly reminds me how lazy this job has made me and it’s inspired me to not only go to the gym more, but also maintain very healthy eating habits. It’s all too easy to snack mindlessly throughout the day and have random meal times. So keeping myself accountable and on a strict eating schedule has been super important.

I also think twice about the kinds of food I pack each day. I’ve had to set strict healthy eating habits and there are certain foods that I leave for special treats every now and then.

At the end of the day, my goal with this job is to grow with the company, but not grow out of my pants.

So here are a few simple tips on how you can maintain healthy eating habits while working a sedentary desk job.

1. Avoid pre-portioned snacks in plastic packages

Grabbing something pre-packaged and pre-portioned makes packing a lunch so much easier. You don’t have to think about it and it takes 0 time out of your day. For someone who is not very creative when it comes to meal ideas, this option can be a dream come true. However, anytime food comes with major convenience, this usually means it’s not good for you.

Taking the time to prepare you snacks- cut it, cube it, assemble it- and pack it yourself in a Tupperware container means you’re likely eating a healthier option.

It means you’re eating real food. You took the time to think about what you’re going to eat and you have full awareness of what the ingredients are. It’s also less likely to be processed and full of artificial ingredients.

This also means you have greater control over the portions. Let’s face it… if you pack a pre-packaged bag of crackers, you’re likely going to eat every single cracker in the bag, regardless if you’re still hungry or not. If you pack your own crackers, you know how much you’ll likely need to be satisfied and you can easily control how much you consume while you’re at work.

Some easy and healthy snacks that you can assemble yourself include:

  • Cheese and crackers
  • Apple slices
  • Carrot sticks and hummus
  • Rice cakes and peanut butter
  • Granola and yoghurt
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Overnight oats
  • Fruit salad
  • Trail mix
  • Air-popped popcorn

2. Have a good breakfast each morning

The worst thing you can do for yourself, regardless if you’re working or not, is skip breakfast. There’s a reason it’s known as the most important meal of the day. It jumpstarts your brain, metabolism and allows you to focus on whatever you have planned fo the day, instead of thinking about how hungry you are.

Personally, I find that if I have a breakfast loaded with carb-heavy foods, such as toast and cereal, I am starving within a few hours. I end up showing up to work and reaching for a snack far before it’s time to start thinking about a lunch break. Not only does this leave me grumpy, but I can’t focus on anything else besides how hungry I am. Next thing I know, I’m looking for more food and mindlessly eating through the majority of my calories within the first few hours of the day.

Try to eat breakfasts that are filled with protein- such as chicken sausages, eggs, nuts and peanut butter. This will leave you energized and full for much longer than a bagel will.

In the end, forcing yourself to make a nice breakfast every morning will allow you to spread out your calories throughout the day and feel better.

3. Make eating out for lunch a special occasion

It’s extremely common for co-workers to go out for lunch together and some people make this a regular thing. Once you develop a lunch group and everyone gets used to going out to eat every single day, it can be hard to break this nasty habit.

There are many special occasions in an office where everyone will want to go out and eat- including birthdays, good-byes, retirements and holidays. I’m definitely not saying you should skip out on each of these events, but try to keep eating out as a special occasion.

Eating out every single day will eventually cause you to make poorer choices with what you’re eating. There are only so many salads you can order before you get tired of them and start to crave a burger. So staying in the office for lunch every now and then will keep you on track and will ensure you’re making healthier choices.

It’s also common knowledge that restaurant portions are double what we normally would serve ourselves. So if you’re choosing to eat out instead of packing your own lunch, you’re probably overeating way more than you should and intaking way more calories than you really need.

All in all, don’t hold back from special lunches with your co-workers, but if this is a common occurrence, it can be detrimental not only to your health, but also your bank account!

4. Make extra portions at dinner and pack them for lunch

When packing lunches for yourself, the best thing you can do is make double the amount of portions at dinner and pack it for the next day’s lunch. Just serve yourself dinner and pop the extras into a Tupperware. Boom, you’re done!

There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning and realizing that you still have to pack a lunch. So then you have to run around, half asleep, and make a half-assed sandwich. I would much prefer to spend my morning relaxing with a coffee before I head out to work, thank you very much!

Here are some of my favourite dinners to bring for lunch the next day:

  • Roasted chicken and vegetables
  • Pasta
  • Chili
  • Soup
  • Stir fry
  • Quesadillas
  • Homemade pizza
  • Fish and homemade fries
  • And the list goes on and on and on…

Planning your lunches the night before will not only ensure you have a healthy and well-balanced lunch, it will also save you from having to rush out in the middle of the day to order takeout. It’s a win-win.

5. Allot a certain number of snacks for the day

When I first started my job, I used to pack a large variety of snack options, because there was nothing scarier to me than the thought of starving at work with nothing to eat.

And while you definitely shouldn’t be hungry during the day, you should be realistic with the amount of food you need. If there are lots of snacks available to you, you’re very likely to eat them all, whether you need them or not.

Try to keep track of how much you generally eat during the day and estimate how many snacks you really need. If this is a bit of a struggle for you, then you might have to actually calculate how many calories you need during the day.

To get to this total, you’ll need to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This number first comes from calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is how much energy your body needs in order to complete basic functioning while at rest (ex. breathing). Your BMR is then multiplied by something called an activity multiplier, which indicates how much energy your body requires to complete purposeful physical activity (ex. running, swimming, walking). TDEE calculators are all over the internet and you can easily get this number in seconds!

With this number, you can understand how much you really need to eat during the day to maintain your current weight and health. It can also help you understand how much food you should add or reduce each day, in order to meet your goals of weight gain or loss.

Bringing snacks that are only absolutely necessary is a great healthy eating habit that will help keep you on track and will ensure that you can still fit into the pants that you bought back in university.

6. Step away from your desk for meal breaks

Like eating while watching TV, eating mindlessly while you work can lead to overeating and consuming foods that aren’t good for you.

It’s very easy to grab for a snack while you’re bored or stressed in front of your computer and this should be a habit that you avoid at all costs. While you’re working, it’s also very easy for you to not notice that you’re getting full, or have already gone through half a bag of chips. Getting away from your desk ensures that you’re mentally aware what and how much you’re eating if you do need a meal break.

Eating while distracted causes you to eat faster than you would if you were eating mindfully. This can cause you to eat more, as it normally takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize that your stomach is full. By getting away from your work to eat, you slow down and it gives your brain time to catch up, so in the end, you’ll be consuming fewer calories.

When you eat while distracted, your brain also doesn’t recognize that you have had a meal. It was so focused on the task at hand that it forgot how much you ate. Therefore, you’re likely to want to eat again within a few hours, even if you don’t need to.┬áBy forcing yourself to eat only during common mealtimes, this also causes you to eat on a set schedule. Over time, you will become used to this schedule and won’t feel the need to constantly snack throughout the day.

Finally, stepping away from your desk to eat allows you to get away from your work. You can take a little mental break and get away from the stress of it all. Eating in the general break room also allows you to socialize with your co-workers. In the end, getting away from your computer allows you to make better decisions when eating and also helps alleviate the stress of the day, both of which contribute to overall well-being.

7. Plan your meals not just for the day, but for the week

It seems that when people plan out their meals, they only plan per day, not weekly. While planning per day is better than not planning at all, looking at what you will eat for a whole week can be much more effective.

It is incredible how much bad food co-workers will bring into the office. You might tell yourself that you can bring a few baked goods for your snack that day, but it turns out it’s Janet’s birthday and she’s brought in cupcakes. Now all of the food you brought, on top of the communal treats, has led to a day of poor eating.

Or you might have had a bad day of eating the day before, but completely forgot that the next day is a meeting and the company is bringing in pizza for everyone. So now you have had a few days in a row of poor food choices.

Looking ahead to what you can expect for the week will help you plan out what you should be packing for yourself. It can also help you stay strong when certain unexpected treats do arrive into the office break room.

When there is so much food everywhere and everyone is partaking in it, it can be hard to eat well. I’m not saying you should never treat yourself, but you shouldn’t give in every time and planning ahead can be your key to maintaining a good balance.

In conclusion…

Your office job should not be your enemy. It does not have to be the sole reason you gain weight or lose your health. Ultimately, the saying goes that abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym- so maintaining good eating habits is your biggest ally in staying healthy with a sedentary lifestyle.

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