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Working from home? Nutritionist-approved smart eating strategies

Lily Soutter is an award-winning London-based nutritionist. She regularly writes for The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Independent and Women's Health, as well as appearing on prime-time national television. Lily’s passion is to simplify the science around nutrition and to provide health hacks and smarter eating strategies that empower people to enjoy a healthy and successful lifestyle. Lily sees individual clients from her clinic in Chelsea and a private medical practice based in Notting Hill. 

Working from home can easily throw a spanner in the works when it comes to healthy eating. When your office and home are essentially one entity, and the kitchen is within arm’s reach, it can feel like an uphill battle when it comes to making smart eating choices. With an endless food supply in such close proximity, you may find yourself frequenting the kitchen in times of stress, boredom, indecisiveness, or most commonly, work procrastination mode.

Aside from isolation and lack of structure, diet can be one of the biggest challenges when you work from home. As a self-employed nutritionist I regularly work from home, and have some top tips for a healthier, more productive working day...

  1. Keep structured - many can feel anxious and unsettled without structure and routine when the line between work and relaxation is blurred. This can lead to mindless snacking and no real lunch breaks. Instead, set out a timetable for each day to include your goals, work schedule and breaks. Preparation can be the best recipe to work productivity and diet success.
  2. Don’t eat at your desk - when we’re under pressure, it can be easy to forgo attention to good nutrition, regular breaks and even exercise. Lunch is often thought of as a refuelling exercise, and the pleasure of food can be forgotten. This may lead to unhealthy habits such as missing meals, eating at our desk, opting for convenient foods and eating on the go. However, taking regular structured lunch breaks can actually replenish our energy levels, improve self-control and decision making, fuel productivity and may even help with creativity.
  3. Engage in mindful eating - mindless eating in front of our computer has been shown to increase our consumption of sugary and salty foods, and reduce our consumption of fruit and vegetables¹. What’s more, one recent study showed that participants who played computer games whilst eating lunch felt less full and snacked on nearly twice as many biscuits 30 minutes later compared to their non-distracted counterparts¹. Engaging in mindful eating away from our desk is key, in fact, a study by the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating ‘attentively’ at mealtimes reduced mindless snacking by as much as 30%².
  4. Make healthy snacking easier to achieve - serial snacking, grazing and boredom eating can often be a result of procrastination and distraction. Whilst snacking can help to fuel our body and brain, mindless snacking is not so friendly on our waistlines. ‘Out of sight out of mind’ really does hold true when it comes to snacking at home. Store your pleasure foods at the back of your cupboards in a hard to reach location, whilst keeping your most nourishing snacks within easy reach.
  5. Eat for brain power - our brain runs on sugar to function and uses as much as 20% of all energy required by the body to function. All carbs break down to sugar, but it’s only the fibre rich slow-release carbohydrates that provide a steady supply of fuel to the body and brain. Why not try starting the day with a comforting bowl of porridge, yoghurt and fruit, or eggs on wholegrain toast.
  6. Batch cook and save time and money - working from home presents an opportunity to eat more home-cooked nourishing food, but if you don’t enjoy cooking you can save time, money and calories by prepping your meals in weekly batches.
  7. Boost cognitive performance with smart hydration strategies - 65% of our body consists of water, and dehydration can have a huge impact on energy, concentration, short-term memory and even mood! Dehydration has also been shown to cause a drop in productivity. What’s more, a large meta-analysis has concluded that dehydration can impair cognitive performance, particularly for tasks which involve attention and concentration³. If you’re bored of plain water and it’s hindering your hydration, why not try mixing things up by enjoying fruit infused water, herbal teas, cold infused tea bags and hydrating fruit and vegetables.