Eat smart, work smart

May 18, 2011|Lynn Little

In today's world of high-stress, high-demand jobs, it can sometimes be difficult to remember the importance of practicing healthy habits while at work.  

Whether you sit at a desk, work behind a counter or are on your feet all day, incorporating good nutrition and physical activity into your workday can make a big difference in your work performance, energy and stress level, as well as your overall health.

Start your workday with breakfast. You'll replenish your body's blood sugar stores, which are needed for sustained mental work and physical activity throughout the day. You'll also stave off mid-morning hunger that may reduce your concentration.

 Take short stress-breakers. Take a brisk, 10-minute walk at least once or twice during your workday. Talking on the phone? Use this time to stretch various muscles. Relieve tension in your shoulders and neck by tilting your head from side to side and from front to back.

 Take time for a lunch break — even when you're under pressure. Eating lunch may help you avoid a dip in your afternoon energy level.

 Need a snack break? Stash nutritious foods in your desk drawer or in the workplace refrigerator. You do want to be careful to avoid mindless munching while sitting in front of the computer.

 What about office celebrations? Enjoy a small treat. When it is your turn to bring goodies, bring bagels and fruit in place of doughnuts or cake.

 Don't forget to move. Walk or take a strength training class over lunch, or team-up with coworkers for an after-work volleyball, baseball, golf or bowling league.

Do you work from an office at home? It is important to keep routine in your life. Instead of rolling out of bed and into your home office, start with breakfast. Try to set a regular time for lunch, as well.

 Need a work break? Opt for a walk outside rather than automatically checking out the refrigerator.

 Keep nutritious food on hand for quick workday meals and snacks.

 Give yourself a treat occasionally. Make a workday lunch date with others who work at home. Social contact that goes with eating out is especially beneficial for those who usually work alone.

 Make time to move more. When you work at home, your chance for routine physical activity might decrease because there is no need to walk from the parking lot or bus stop to your place of work. To compensate, make sure you take planned action breaks like walking the dog, walking down the street to pick up the mail or taking 10 minutes to work out on the treadmill or a stationary bike. You'll be amazed at how much sharper your brain can be after a short break.

For more information about physical activity and healthy lifestyle visit and click on interactive tools. From the "Food Tracker" you will be able to assess and receive feedback on your food choices and your physical activity.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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