Changing eating habits, both at home and at work, starts at the grocery store with a plan and a list.

Making healthier choices at work

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Around this time of year, many of us decide it is time to start making healthier food choices, especially with what we eat at work.

Changing eating habits, both at home and at work, starts at the grocery store with a plan and a list. Plan out what you will eat for dinner during the week by choosing four or five simple healthy dinners and make a list of what ingredients you need.

Purchase only the foods that you need, and aim to stay on the outside of the grocery store, avoiding the more processed foods in the middle. To save time, organize your grocery list by the store section or aisle. For example: list groups of produce, meat, dairy, frozen items, and grains.
Meal planning tips:

  • Look for simple recipes with few ingredients but include two vegetables, a protein and a carbohydrate/whole grain.
  • Prepare enough at dinner that you can bring leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Pack just enough for your lunch that you will be satisfied but not full. Wait 20 minutes after lunch to decide if you are still hungry and then reach for a fruit or vegetable to supplement.
  • If you are too busy to make dinner each night of the week, try cooking meals on Sundays and freezing the dinners that will be eaten towards the end of the week.

Plan out and purchase five snacks for the five days of the week. This way, you aren’t resorting to the vending machine options or sweets when you are hungry and it is not a mealtime.

Try to bring one serving of your snack to avoid having the entire bag on your desk, thus giving you the opportunity to overeat. Also, bring a water bottle to work and keep it on your desk or with you all day. If you often crave something sweet after lunch, pack one serving of dark chocolate or a fruit. This might help you resist the cookies your coworker brought in. 

Knowing you have your favorite chocolate that you enjoy far more may help you feel less deprived.
Healthy snack options:

  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Greek Yogurt with sliced almonds or oats
  • Pretzels or carrot sticks and hummus 

At work, avoid desktop dining and eat lunch away from your desk to encourage blood flow, creativity and mindful eating.

When we simultaneously eat and work, we are less mindful of how much we have eaten and not attentive to when we are full. Remind yourself to reach for water instead of soda, as this change alone can remove calories and added sugar in your diet. If you typically drink soda for an afternoon caffeine boost, try antioxidant-rich green tea instead.

Ask a coworker to start making healthy changes with you, or create an office challenge: See who can pack their lunch for the most consecutive days in a row.


Jessica Shickel is a registered dietitian, a graduate of James Madison University and an inpatient clinical dietitian at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Jessica is passionate about educating patients on vital nutrition changes that can benefit all aspects of health and wellness.