Mental and emotional stress, physical inactivity, calorie-packed birthday cakes and rampant desktop eating can add up to hundreds of empty calories and fruitless blood sugar spikes throughout the workday. When you take time to plan healthy and energizing meals and snacks at work, you will benefit from more consistent energy levels, better moods, and fewer empty calories that can pack on extra pounds.
Protein and whole grains will help your body release energy slowly. Sweets and unhealthy snacks tend to sharply raise your blood sugar, only to be followed shortly thereafter by a crash that leaves you hungry and irritable.
Dr. Subha Rajan, MD, a family physician at ThedaCare Physicians-New London, counsels her patients to avoid highly processed or sweetened foods. “Refined sugar is a toxin to your liver. It’s not simply calories in, calories out. One hundred calories from an apple is slowly absorbed and fully utilized by your body. Those same 100 calories from poor quality food are rapidly absorbed, and your body has no means of using them right away. They get stored as fat. Choose wisely, and good food truly feeds your mind and body with the nutrients you need.”
The key is to shop for breakfast, lunch and snack food and make your lunch and snacks the night before work. “Never skip a meal, and plan to eat at least five times a day,” Dr. Rajan suggests. “Stick to the rule that you should choose foods that are as close their natural form as possible. That way, you’ll avoid overly processes foods with unhealthy additives.”
Stymied for good ideas? Dare to think outside the sandwich:
- First, always start your day with a breakfast of protein, like eggs, milk, or lean meats, not sugary cereals.
- Plan and pack healthy snacks for mid-morning and afternoon, in addition to your lunch. The goal is to keep your body consistently supplied with nutrients throughout the day, not run the gauntlet of feast-and-famine.
- Cut up a dish full of cheese or hard boiled eggs, some fruit, and then toss on a handful of nuts. No bread necessary.
- Bagels, tortillas, pitas or rolls can change up the shape of your sandwich. Choose whole grain bread because it has much more beneficial fiber and nutrients than white bread.
- Get dippy. Bring hummus, salsa, yogurt dip, nut butters or cottage cheese to sauce up whole grain crackers or fresh vegetables.
- Add fresh berries and granola to a dish of yogurt or tuna on your salad. These small rituals of self-care can lift your spirits and boost your immunity.
- Don’t bring the big bag of munchies or crackers to the office. Instead, prepare smaller portions at home the night before so you aren’t mindlessly munching throughout the day.
- Sometimes that tired feeling just means you’re wilting. Your body exhibits the effects of dehydration well in advance if thirst. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- If you are invited to a potluck or party spread, make your first visit to the veggies. Fill up on good things before treating yourself to a slice of cake.
- When eating out, choose high protein, high fiber foods. Skip fried foods and creamy sauces or soups and you’ll avoid extra calories and that sleepy after lunch feeling. Chicken salad, sushi and beans are all good choices.
Need help to find a doctor who will help you sail smoothly through your workday? Subha Rajan, MD, a family physician at ThedaCare Physicians-New London, is accepting new patients. Contact her office at directly at (920) 531-2400. Or call ThedaCare On Call at (920) 830-6877 or go to www.thedacare.org and click on “Find a Doctor.”