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Guest blog by Rachel Eagleton, Clinical Nutritionist

I get it.  Food is acting as source of entertainment, as a treat, as way to break up the day.  But if you’ve been working towards a health or fitness goal this year, don’t allow this to be the excuse that undoes all of your hard work! We need to put some plans in place for the next few weeks and realise that your willpower is no match for a poor food environment.  From the moment we wake up till the moment we go to sleep we are constantly using our willpower to achieve things in our day – and that includes making decisions about what to eat, as well as resisting temptation. As the day goes on, our “tank” of willpower gets depleted.  This blog will go outline some things you can do and practice to eat well when you are working from home. 

If your goal is to eat a more nourishing diet or reduce unhealthy body fat but you continue to surround yourself with ultra-processed foods that have high fat and high sugar content you will be depleting your willpower tank throughout the day. If the foods that don’t serve your health aren’t within sight or in the cupboard, then there is no need to employ willpower. You can simply grab a cup of tea or a piece of fruit. Or you’ll have nothing because you aren’t really hungry, you’re simply procrastinating or bored.  

So what can I do right now to stay healthy, maintain a healthy weight, and stay calm when working from home?

🤗 Be kind to yourself.  I know some people are running marathons on balconies but for most of us getting a walk or run in or following a zoom yoga or pilates class will be enough

 Stick to a Routine – try to keep go to bed and wake up at a similar each day to help ensure that your sleep quality is good. 

🥪 Pack a ‘work lunch’ every day with veggies (1/2 a plate), a palm size piece of lean protein, and some high quality grains.  Simple ideas are:

  • Frittata made with left over veggies or a zucchini slice
  • A simple Buddha bowl made by combining some tinned black beans simmered for 5 minutes with some Mexican spice, some avo, some left over roast veggies.
  • leftovers
  • More lunch ideas here 

🌽 Menu plan and cook/prep some extra veggies for the next day’s lunch/snacks

🍇 🥕 Focus on ticking off your 2 serves of fruit, 5 serves of veggies 

🏃🧘 Move daily! If you can, get outside and get some sun to get your dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an essential role in reducing respiratory infections, reducing antibiotic use, and supports the immune system’s response to infections. I noticed in Ireland they are now recommending supplementing with vitamin D (not our advice here as we get a lot more sun, but definitely a reason to get outside for 10 minutes or so every day) to improve immune protection from Covid-19.

Snacking when you’re working from home

Of course, you don’t need to snack – for some people 3 meals a day is plenty. On the other hand if you are snacking more than 3 times a day you might want to check that you are eating enough and the right mix at your main meals. Your aim is to have a snack that’s filling, satisfies your hunger and doesn’t leave you hungry again in less than an hour, but you don’t want it so big that it is going to spoil your next meal. Ideally you should choose snacks that help you top up the main food groups that you know you don’t eat enough of.  For most people this would mean including some fruit or veggies in their snack because most people don’t hit their targets of 5 serves of veggies and 2 pieces of fruit.  

Most Australians don’t eat any nuts but they are a great snack as they deliver heart-smart nutrients like monounsaturated fat, fibre, magnesium and vitamin E.  So my first choice for a snack would be a piece of fruit and some nuts. If you eat grains (eg cereal, bread, rice) with most meals then it can be a good idea to choose a snack that isn’t grain based.  Some other favourite snacks include chopped cherry tomatoes and boccocini, a high protein yogurt with berries and a sprinkle of granola, as a wholegrain cracker with avocado. Other high protein options are VPA Breakfast Shake which is convenient at any time of day and combines a serve of protein with healthful oats. Alternatively you could make a protein shake with either pure whey protein isolate or whey protein concentrateYou can find more snack ideas here.

What to drink when you are working from home

At a time when we all need to be controlling our cortisol (stress) hormone you don’t want to be wired on endless cups of coffee (a couple of cups are fine, don’t panic!).  Water is great – make sure you get a glass before and with every meal.   Sipping on green tea can help with brain power thanks to the naturally present polyphenols like catechins, but bear in mind it does contain caffeine so keep it well away from bedtime.  Herbal teas like lemongrass and ginger are great and can be a distraction if you’re only in the kitchen for “something to do”.  

Hopefully I have given you some practical tips about how to eat well when you are working from home.  Whether we’re at home for weeks or months, keeping focussed on maintaining health is important to your overall long-term health and well being. Stay at home, eat your fruit and veggies and wash your hands.  

Rachel Eagleton is a university qualified Clinical Nutritionist based in Sydney, Australia.  She is also the busy working mum of two teenagers, so is practical and realistic with her advice. Rachel offers private consultations to improve your sporting performance,  or your general health and well-being. You can find her at racheleagleton.com.au and on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips. 
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Sally Mitchell (BSc, MHumNut) is a university qualified nutritionist and VPA staff member. Her favourite VPA product is coffee Breakfast Shake. She enjoys powerlifting and running, and does both poorly.

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