Nutrition Tips: Return to Work (and School)

Nutrition Tips: Return to Work (and School)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rerouted many of our daily practices including the way we eat and the amount of movement we get. Now that many of us are finally used to working and schooling remotely, things are morphing yet again! You may be returning to campus full-time or commuting only a few days a week. This transition can be a great time to consider what food habits you would like to take along with you to the new normal and which you would rather leave behind. If you’re transitioning back full time, it may feel like time you were able to spend planning and preparing food is now consumed with work preparations and the commute. Below is some information to use as you try and shape your new normal. The bottom line is food and eating must be enjoyable. Whatever this looks like for you, make it as easy as possible, and remember, it may take several sets of experiments to find what works best.

Healthy habits during the work day:

Here are some things to consider each day: 
  • Prepare snacks ahead of time. Plan to have the foods you want to snack on at the ready. If you stock your office with snacks, pre-portion them. Or, at least remove the portion you wish to consume from a larger bag, prior to consumption. Pre-cut fruit and veggies as well as nuts, dried fruit, and healthy bars will help avoid impulsive vending machine snacking.  

  • Take a lunch break. Enjoy your lunch and relax for a few minutes. Being distracted during a meal can lead to over-eating and decreased satisfaction and fullness with what you are eating. The break will lead to a more productive afternoon - check out this article on 7 reasons to take your lunch break.  

  • Drink plenty of water. Keep a water bottle on your desk to remind yourself to stay hydrated. Reconsider sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda and other high-calorie drinks.  

  • Be mindful of caffeine. Too much caffeine is associated with dehydration, fatigue and headaches, all which have the potential to disrupt your work day.  

  • Take movement and stretch breaks throughout the day. Check out our Healthy Meeting and Event Guide for Meetings to share with your team to build healthy habits into work events.  

Meal plan: 

Meal planning saves time and money in the long run. 
  • Plan your meal and snack times. Returning to a daily commute makes it even more important to plan for meals. Having a simple list of menus to create for meals allows you to make sure all ingredients are in your kitchen with a weekly trip to the grocery store. After a full day back at work, coming home to a fully actionable meal plan will make feeding everyone easier.

  • Save your weekly plans. It can be a relief to re-use the plan in a future week. Check out Meal Planning for Beginners. here are many ways to make the task manageable, and you don't have to prep until you're cooking the meal; pre-prepping is an optional part of the plan. 

  • Look for inspiration online. Food and Health blogs can be very helpful. Subscribe to your favorites, a few to check out are listed here.

  • Download an app to your phone. Many of these are very helpful. My favorite is Paprika as it helps organize recipes, make meal plans, and create grocery lists. Check out this overview of several other meal planning apps.

  • Create one dish meals. A great option to limit dishes and clean up! There is less work involved and the oven, instant pot or regular pot does most of the cooking work. Check out this post for some inspiration.

  • Help, I’m missing an ingredient! Check out the New York Times great recipe substitution guide.  

Grocery Shopping:

Plan your trip to the store ahead of time and look for ingredients that are in season and on sale. 
  • Part of your meal plan is a grocery list - stick to it. Buy what you need and avoid impulse purchases. Purchasing the food you need for meals and snacks is the first step to success and a must for making eating less stressful. 

  • Purchase the ingredients you need.  You decide how many times a week you'll shop, if you'll order online and pick up or if you want to have your supplies delivered.

Food at School: 

Your children may get free lunch at school.
  • For the academic year 2021-22, all public school students have the option to eat school meals for free. Check your school district's website.  

Tips for Eating Out:

Everyone needs a break from cooking!  Visit a local establishment or order in.  Try these ideas to make healthier meals:
  • Pizza – try thin crust (or cauliflower crust) for fewer refined carbohydrates, double the veggies and half the cheese and meats.   

  • Burgers – go for a sandwich that has just one meat patty and a slice of cheese. If possible, request a whole grain bun or lettuce leaf to add fiber.  

  • Side dishes - to minimize excessive fat and calories, avoid fried or creamy side dishes. French fries, onion rings, and Mac & cheese, etc. might be replaced with a steamed vegetables, a side salad, fresh fruit, or baked potato. If the French fries are too hard to pass up, eat half today and half tomorrow, or share with a companion. 

  • Order off the kid’s menu – portions are smaller and it’s cheaper! 

  • Mexican food heavier in beans than meat contains great fiber, protein, iron and calcium.  

The Staff and Faculty Health and Well-being program has nutrition resources available. Email our dietitian, Linda Adams, to arrange a meeting to talk about your situation.