Eating healthy on a busy schedule can be challenging, but nowhere is it more difficult than in the office during lunchtime. You have a midday energy slump, plus you ate out yesterday for a meeting. Then, on top of that, Steve is taking orders for a cheap and fast sandwich delivery, and Carol’s birthday is today so there are cookies in the breakroom. None of these options sound good, but what choice do you have? Not eat?
Check out the good, better, and best ways to tackle your lunch hour, so you can make healthier decisions with ease.
Good: Eating Out
Fad diets aside, to eat for your health and maintain a fit body composition, you must avoid extra large portions and food that has been highly processed. This can be difficult. The average meal at a chain restaurant has 1,128 calories, which is more than half of what most people should eat in an entire day!
To stay on track when eating out, follow Chris’s top 7 tips to eat healthy at a restaurant.
Have a plan. Look at the menu online before and select your order. This will help you avoid making a quick decision and eliminate the likelihood of co-worker’s orders having an effect on yours.
Order first if possible. You are already committed because you looked at the menu ahead of time. If you are the last to order and your three co-workers just finished listing off fatty burgers, fries, and soda you are much more likely to follow suit. Get your order in and don’t turn back. By doing so, you may also influence the others in your group to make a healthier order where they wouldn’t otherwise.
Remove ingredients or substitute. Choose leaner cuts of meat and veggies or a salad instead of carb-loaded sides.
Don’t drink your calories. Water and unsweetened tea are your best choices.
“On the side.” Dressings and sauces add considerable calories to an otherwise sensible meal. Order on the side so you can control how much you want to use. Use less than you think, you can always add more but you can’t go the other way!
Smaller portions. When in doubt, eat less than you think you should. Many of us were programmed since childhood to eat everything in front of us. If you think your order is larger than what you should eat in one meal, ask for a to-go box when you order and spilt your meal before you even start.
When your food arrives, eat slowly. Your body takes around twenty minutes to realize it’s full. Set your fork down between every bite and have a sip of water; this will control your pace.
Better: The ‘Leftovers’ or ‘Meal-Prep’ method
Cooking or preparing meals at home ahead of time is always going to be better for your health and wallet than eating out. While this can take a little time, there are considerable health and budget benefits. Whether you are grocery shopping or getting your ingredients delivered to your doorstep, preparation and execution in the kitchen are key.
Leftovers are your friend. If you had a good home-cooked dinner the night before, split off enough for lunch and stick it in the fridge for the next day. Lunch prep done!
Buy a good set of glass “To-Go” containers. They last forever, are microwave safe, wash better than plastic, and are better for the environment.
Keep it simple. Now is NOT the time to craft your favorite, trendy pinterest recipe (save that for date night!) Stick to basic meals that are less than 5 ingredients and take less than 10 minutes to throw together.
Start with a palm sized serving of lean protein. My favorites are chicken breast or venison cooked in bulk; smoked salmon, canned tuna and sardines for fish; or lentils, quinoa and black beans when keeping it meatless.
Always follow mom’s advice and “Eat your Veggies.” Vegetables are high in nutrients and fiber, but low in calories. You can eat just about unlimited amounts in this category and not go wrong. Don’t get bored with salads all the time, cut up ‘snacking’ veggies like carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers. Find creative ways to ‘hide’ greens into your meals. Most leafy greens won’t change the flavor of the dish, will cook down considerably, and will add a ton of nutrients. Organic spinach is my go-to in everything!
Best: The ‘Hybrid’
For the cost (or less) of what you would spend at a restaurant, you can hire a company to be your personal chef every week, saving you hours grocery shopping, prepping and cooking. Enter the healthy meal prep service. Fortunately there are many options to choose from for fresh, healthy, and delicious lunches in the office. For business professionals, this option turns out to be best because it outsources the work, while still getting you the best result.
Choose a company that never skimps on quality ingredients. A national company claiming to be 100% Organic was recently busted trying to save money by sourcing ingredients from IHOP and McDonalds. Are you kidding? Don’t hesitate to ask about their sourcing. Grass Fed, humanely raised meats, wild caught seafood, and farm-fresh, organically grown produce are usually best.
Choose local when possible. Local produce won’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to your plate, will be fresher and more nutritious for you, and support the regional economy of farmers.
Steer clear of individuals cooking out of their home kitchen, often referred to as “cottage industry.” While they may have good intentions, they are not regulated or inspected by the health department or consumer protection agencies. This can lead to cutting corners where it matters, your health.
Just like finding a great restaurant in a new city, ask for referrals from a friend who is knowledgeable in healthy eating or dig into customer reviews.
Whichever option you choose today, know that eating a healthy lunch is within your reach. Even small changes lead to huge benefits over time. If you need more help getting started, reach out to us at EatThe80.com.
By Chris Marhefka
Chris Marhefka is one of two featured trainers and lifestyle coaches who guide engaged couples through the most challenging three months of their lives – as they strive to lose weight and adopt healthy lifestyles in time for their weddings – on Z Living’s cable series, Altar’d, which returns for season two October 14, 2018.
Chris is also the founder of B3 Gym in Gainesville, FL and co-founder of Eat the 80, a healthy meal delivery service headquartered in Gainesville, Florida with a nationwide subscription base. A business consultant for gyms across the US, public speaker, and podcast host, Chris has worked with thousands of clients and has 12+ years of experience as a personal trainer, CrossFit instructor, nutrition and business coach.