Nutritional Networking: How to Eat Healthy at Work

1. Packing Healthy Lunches

One of the greatest challenges for many of us is eating healthy meals on the job.  Time-pressures and ‘social-determinants’–compromising what you eat on your lunch hour in order to eat with the right person—tend to sway us more easily in professional settings vs. in our private lives.

So: it’s noon, and your co-workers are queuing up at the nearest Subways and burger joints. If you accompany your co-worker’s to eat General Tso’s in the food court, you may get an opportunity to network, but digesting the General Tso’s may hinder your productivity in the afternoon.  If you take a healthier approach, and you’ll find you have more natural energy and you’ll avoid the sugar-high/sugar-crash rollercoaster through the afternoon. Check out the nutritional information for General Tso’s here.  It’s pretty ugly.

Don’t feel confined to your desk if you’re opting to eat packed lunches. Take your lunch outside to a bench or to a break room. Isolating yourself during lunch will make it harder to keep up your new routine if you’re used to going out with friends.


2. Live to Eat or Eat to Live?

There’s short term insurance—the kind that protects you against emergencies.  Then there’s the ‘short term insurance’ that pharmaceuticals and reactive care provides.  And then there’s long-term health insurance.  Barring catastrophes, the best kind of long-term insurance is taking care of yourself.  This is not something we as Americans like to hear.  But it’s a lesson that we need to learn.  We get to choose: do we want to eat our way into an early grave, do we want to ‘live to eat’– or do we want to ‘eat to live.’  You get to decide.

3. Proteins

Peanut butter is king when it comes to healthy lunches, but be sure that you’re getting the most out of your spread. Don’t use fat-free or reduced fat peanut butter because it takes out healthy natural fat and replaces it with sugar to ramp up the phony ‘Reese’s Peanut Butter’ flavor. If you use jelly, go for the all-natural, no sugar added variety. Skippy and Smuckers have finally caught on to this trend, and rolled out lines of their natural peanut butters to compete with health-food store brands.

If a meal isn’t a meal without meat, try packing leftovers. Baked chicken becomes a splendid wrap the next day with whole grain tortillas and lettuce. Homemade enchiladas reheat well in the office microwave, and burritos can be eaten cold.

If you do go the traditional sliced meat route, don’t mistake the turkey sliced at your deli as healthy. Depending on the brand, they’re loaded with just as many preservatives and added salt as the pre-sliced packages. Look for meat that is nitrate free, or consider cooking a turkey breast on Sunday and using it for lunch meat sandwiches the rest of the week.

Packing a large salad for lunch seems like a healthy option, but it won’t be filling without protein. Add baked chicken or nuts to your salad to make sure it fills you up.

4. Beverages

Always pack either a water bottle or a thermos with cold, filtered water. Having liquid at your fingertips will help you resist the call of the vending machine. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, so keep that bottle handy.

If you’re looking for a little flavor, try mixing 100 percent juice with sparkling water. You can also try Izze Soda, which is made similarly.

Those who crave caffeine should stick to a cup or two of black coffee. If you can’t stand the taste, try adding some plain non-dairy creamer.

5. Sides

Leave the chips at home (or better yet—in the trash). To get the same satisfying crunch, try a handful of assorted nuts or unsalted sunflower seeds. Seedless grapes, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots are all excellent options, especially with a low-fat dip.

6. Sweets

The candy bars might beckon, but ignore their call by satisfying your sweet tooth. Homemade oatmeal and raisin cookies can be surprisingly healthy, as can chocolate chip cookies made with applesauce. Fruit leather (the grown up version of Fruit Roll-Ups), can also do the job quite nicely.

Thomas Stone

Thomas Stone is health blogger at and he focuses primarily on the benefits of exercise and nutrition for health.

3 thoughts on “Nutritional Networking: How to Eat Healthy at Work

  • May 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    A lot more people in my office have started to bring their lunches and we all eat together in the break room or outside when it’s warm, so we’re not missing out on the networking but we are eating healthy. A couple of us got the Laptop Lunches bento boxes recently and love them! They are great for packing a variety of foods, offer great portion control, and create a great presentation which makes me feel good about eating healthy. They also have a full online menu library which is great for inspiration. You should check them out:

  • May 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I think we all can eat healthy at work by using homemade foods and by selecting natural unprocessed foods. Do not forget to pack fresh salad and a few fresh fruits.

  • May 14, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Thomas: I really liked your post. So easily, office mates get hooked into eating where “everyone’s going.” At the place I consult, there is a unique vibe where at least three people are committed to eating healthy. Having friends at work to share that mission at works really helps too!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *