There’s nothing wrong with loving your job. But if you spend most of your time at the office, chances are your health will get short shrift. Researchers at Kansas State University looked at workaholics who logged 50-plus hours a week at work and found that they skipped more meals, had worse diets and more mood problems than people who worked less. If cutting back your hours isn’t an option (or you simply don’t want to), try these 10 ways to eat and live healthfully, no matter how time-crunched you are.
READ MORE: 3 Ways to Be Proud of Your Job
1Keep healthy foods at arms’ reach.
Instead of a dish of candy on your desk, try a basket of apples or trail mix: When people were seated at tables with a bowl of apple slices or carrots, they were much more likely to munch on the fruits and vegetables than if the snacks were 6 feet away, according to research from St. Bonaventure University. In fact, research author Gregory Privitera, Ph.D., did a follow-up study and found that people even chose produce over salty, crunchy popcorn if the fruit and veggies were closer. Some of the best snacks to have on hand during the workday are a mix of protein plus produce or whole grains, says nutritionist Elisa Zied, author of the upcoming book, “Younger Next Week.” “This combination of protein and fiber is filling, helps steady blood sugar and provides many other key nutrients to help your body and brain perform optimally.” Some of her favorite picks: dried fruit mixed with nuts and whole grain cereal (1 tablespoon each), 10 to 15 whole grain chips with hummus or fresh fruit and yogurt.
2Drink lots of water.
Sure, the hydration will do you good, but for those of us with office jobs, the best thing about guzzling H2O is that it forces you to get up from your desk and walk to the bathroom several times a day. The truth is, sitting for too long can kill you. “When you’re inactive, your metabolism glacierizes,” says Pamela Peeke, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of “Body for Life for Women.” “You cool down, important enzyme systems slow down significantly, and this leaves you with an inability to efficiently process blood glucose and cholesterol. Thus, blood sugar and lipids rise.” In fact, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who sat for 11 hours a day were 40 percent more likely to die in the next three years compared to those who were on their tush for less than four hours. Obviously, finding every excuse you can to stand up and move is worth it.
3Use a moisturizer or face makeup with SPF.
What’s better for a busy person than a twofer? Pick a morning moisturizer or foundation with SPF in it and if you forget to apply sunscreen, you’re still protected. More than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year so in addition to slathering on sun protection, be sure to toss a pair of UVA-UVB-shielding sunglasses and a wide-brimmed crushable hat in your bag to further shield yourself from the sun.
4Eat off salad, rather than dinner, plates.
“Eating off smaller plates can help you eat less,” says Zied. “For one, you can’t put as much food on a smaller plate as you can on a bigger one. Also, you may eat less quickly because you’ll have less food. Think about when your tube of toothpaste or shampoo bottle are near empty, you use less and try to conserve. Using smaller utensils, cups and bowls can also help you naturally eat less, too.” Try Slim and Sage’s chic 9-inch plates that are proven to help reduce your caloric intake by up to 59 percent. (Feel-good bonus: Slim and Sage donates 2 percent of their profits towards childhood obesity research.)
5Put a nature scene on the desktop of your computer…
…or just hang a picture of a beautiful natural scene, such as one from your last beach vacation or the panoramic view after you reached the end of your hike, in your office. Piles of studies have found that being out in nature can slash stress and even speed healing after surgery, but some research also suggests that simply looking at pictures of nature can boost energy and vitality. “Research shows that connecting with nature in any way soothes you and brings the stress hormone cortisol down to a more functional level,” says Dr. Peeke. “There is a deeply spiritual element, which is a humbling moment, when we see the grandeur and majesty of nature and realize the small part we play.”
6Treat yourself to a daily piece of dark chocolate
You may think of candy as a big, fat no-no, but study after study has confirmed that indulging in dark chocolate—which is naturally high in healthy flavonoids—every day can help your heart. In one 2012 study out of San Diego State University, people who ate about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate (with 70 percent cocoa) daily for two weeks had lower levels of bad cholesterol and higher good cholesterol than those who nibbled on white chocolate, which contains zero cocoa. Another study, this one out of the University of Adelaide in Australia, found that dark chocolate may help reduce blood pressure.
7Eat your biggest meal at breakfast, rather than dinner.
When you take in your calories could be almost as important as how many you eat. An interesting study found that women who ate bigger breakfasts (and smaller lunches and dinners) lost more weight than those who had big dinners, even though both groups ate a total of 1,400 calories a day. “Having a big breakfast tells your body that you’re not starving after an overnight fast,” explains Zied. “And as a bonus, a nutrient-rich breakfast sets you up to be alert, productive and focused, and helps your body and brain perform optimally.”
8Walk anywhere and everywhere you can.
Walk to work, if you can, or at the very least walk while running errands around your neighborhood. “Walking 15 minutes a day, especially if you do it briskly, stokes your metabolic fire and allows you to sustain better heart fitness,” says Peeke. In fact, a Harvard study found that walking just 15 minutes a day, five days a week made men less likely to die of any cause over the next five years.
9Grab healthy, hassle-free snacks.
Rather than reaching for that cookie or candy when energy levels dip, pop a few LifeIce Bite-Sized Ices—small tasty frozen cubes packed with healthy nutrients, such as kale, spirulina, ginger and superfruits mangosteen and yumberry, The cubes come in four flavors and are fat-free, low in calories and sugars, GMO-free and contain no preservatives. Or try GoBites—customizable, perfectly portioned, 100-percent-natural snacks (most of them are organic), such as antioxidant-rich dried fruits, dark chocolate, and nuts and seeds, delivered right to your door.
10Do some deep breathing or a mini meditation.
You’ve probably heard before about how good meditation is for your mind and body—research suggests that mindfulness meditation soothes stress and improves your brain’s ability to pay attention. But you may not know just how fast and easy meditation can be: “No matter where you are, just become more aware of your breath as you inhale and exhale,” says Peeke. “Say ‘I am breathing in. I am breathing out.’ By doing so you become aware of your body. You then become more present.” Do it for two minutes, five, or 10—whatever you can manage—your body will thank you for it.