The COVID-19 outbreak forced many people to work from home for the first time. From the stories I’ve heard from friends and strangers on Twitter, this was more of a challenge than expected. And the issue seems to around choosing healthy food when working from home. With endless possibilities at your fingertips, how do you make sure you’re making the right choices?
If you’re new to working from home – or if you’ve been doing it for a while and you need to develop better habits – let me offer you some advice.
Healthy food when working from home
When I first started freelancing in Portugal, I was the healthiest I had ever been. Because I finally had the freedom and time to commit to healthy eating and exercise. But this was directly after living and working in London.
When I worked in London all my meals were quick and convenient, carb-heavy and usually followed with a sweet treat. And I never had the energy to leave my apartment after working in retail 4 days a week and publishing internships 2 days a week. This all changed when I moved to Portugal.
Portugal is not a fast food country. So I had to go back to basics with my eating habits. And this is something I have tried to replicate in the years that followed.
I’ve found that when I’m working a full time job and schlepping to an office every day, I lean on convenience. I feel that lunch should be a reward, and I treat myself to a chocolate break at 11am and 3pm. Whatever gets you through the day, right?
If you’re new to working from home and you aren’t sure how to improve your eating habits, I have a few small tips that will help you rethink your day. Let me know if these work out for you…
Repurpose your commute
Now you’re working from home, you don’t have to travel 45 minutes to and from work every day. Don’t allow this time to be absorbed by work tasks! Instead, repurpose your commute for your health.
Use your morning “commute” to prepare a healthy slow cooker meal for the evening. And then use your evening “commute” to squeeze in a quick HIIT workout before dinner.
It’s all about allocating time and then protecting this. And when you’re working from home, you actually have a lot more freedom to achieve this.
Never eat at your desk
The same can be said of office workers. Never ever ever eat food at your desk. Not only is your desk a breeding ground for germs (like, seriously) but it’s also a huge distraction. What I learned about eating in Portugal was that it should never be a passive activity.
Eating while reading the news, watching TV and browsing Twitter switches your focus away from the food. Try to switch off while you are working from home and focus on the food in front of you. You’ll eat less and be more satisfied with your meal. You’ll also give your eyes a break from your screen, and your mind a break from your work.
Beware of housework creep
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve decided to clean the kitchen after lunch and then 30 minutes later I’m deep cleaning the fridge. I call this “housework creep”, and it’s very easy to fall into this trap. You think that a load of laundry won’t take long, and then before long you’re scrubbing the bathroom tile.
This all comes down to allocating and then protecting your time. So if you decide you’re going to work from 10am-1pm, make sure you remain accountable during this time. Housework can wait.
If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to focus on work when you’re surrounded by dishes and clutter. This is why I use part of my morning “commute” to take care of the most pressing household tasks.
My go-to healthy meals to keep me fueled up and focussed
Now I’ve gone through the principles of reallocating and then protecting your time, what exactly do I prepare for lunch every day?
I have two types of lunches. Comforting and nourishing.
When the wind is howling and the rain is coming down sideways, I make quick comforting meals that won’t pack on the pounds. This was never a necessity in Portugal as the cold days were few and far between, but when you’re living with the harsh Northern weather, you need all the help you can get.
Comforting lunch ideas
- Tuna melt with a big salad
- Grilled cheese and tomato soup
- Baked potato with cheese and beans
- Rice and bean burritos
- Last night’s leftovers
Nourishing lunch ideas
- Rye bread with rocket, tomato, mozzarella and balsamic drizzle
- Sweet potato egg nests
- Tofu stir fry with sweet potato noodles and peanut sauce
- Falafel mezze platter
- Turkey burgers with homemade slaw
For my nourishing lunches, I love to take inspiration from Downshiftology. If you aren’t familiar with this blog, Lisa does meal prep with a difference. Rather than making pre-portioned meals and then suffering through the same microwaved meal all week, Lisa preps the ingredients and then creates quick and fresh meals throughout the week.
She has meal prep plans for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, with a focus on seasonal produce. She then shares recipe suggestions so you can create with your mix and match ingredients. It’s inspired, and it’s exactly what you need when you’re working from home.
When it comes to snacking, granola bars will be your downfall. I know how easy it is to reach for those healthy looking snacks when you’re out shopping. This, you say, will be the best thing to keep my energy up throughout the day.
Granola bars are a great way to throw 200 calories down your gullet without blinking. Save them for hikes, please!
Instead of granola bars and biscuits, try yoghurt, fresh fruit and plain popcorn. Sometimes, you’re not even hungry, you’re just thirsty. Grab a glass of water or try some flavoured green tea to trick your brain into thinking it just got a sweet treat.
These are just the tips that work for me. I’d love to hear how you stay healthy while working from home!