Work + Food: Tips for Improving the Relationship

For those of you who just read the title of this post and thought, “what’s the problem with work and food?” Power to you!  I hope you will share how you make this work in the comments section below, but for the vast majority of us, work and food often represent a variety of challenges.  From meals on-the-go and vending machines loaded with junk, to dinners out and airport kiosks; managing how we eat while at work requires a fair amount of mindfulness if one is to avoid the various pitfalls that line the workday.  For me, I recently discovered that these land minds exist everywhere; even in my new home office.

Through the years, my work relationship with food has ranged from being a young twenty something in the “dot com” world, working late hours and eating massive pressed sandwiches at lunch with bags of chips, to entering the event world and somehow thinking that it was okay for my co-workers and me to get a bag of candy from the “pick and mix” in the cafeteria everyday after lunch, to finding a rhythm in my thirties, becoming much more aware of how I nourished my body and making the effort to prepare my own meals to bring to work.  This has been a fairly steady practice for me for several years, challenged at times because I traveled quite a bit for work, but by and large I had a fairly healthy “work + food” relationship. Then I started working at home.  Holy SHREK.  The kitchen is now literally three feet from my “office” and sure it is filled with healthy food, but how many handfuls of cashews should one be eating in one day??  You see, as our jobs and situations often change, so does our “work + food” relationship, and that will require us to re-evaluate and re-calibrate to ensure that we are eating when we are hungry, and not when stressed, bored, or trying to feel something other than what we are feeling.

I’ve compiled my top tips for creating a healthy “work + food” relationship.  If you have other practices that work for you, please share in the comments box below!

  1. Bring your own food.  This is truly the best way to establish a healthy “work + food” relationship as it gives you control over what you are eating. I know it takes a few extra minutes at night, but well worth it.  Pack yourself a healthy lunch with good sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.  If you don’t have time to eat breakfast in the morning, pack that too, even if just a container of plain greek yogurt and 1/4 cup of almonds.  You need this fuel to get your morning started.
  2. Bring your own food even if it is being provided.  This is one that I learned in more recent years as I often found myself at lunch meetings where food was being served.  Sure, this might have a few people questioning why you brought your lunch if it was provided, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for the meal being served, but have the confidence to discreetly pull out your salad container, or at least bring a few healthy items or snacks that you can have along with what is being served (i.e. hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken pieces, nuts.)  Pizza is often served with salad, so make yourself a salad and then enjoy with the additional items that you brought with you.
  3. Eat with other people.  Earlier on in my career, my colleagues and I would break for lunch everyday and sit together in the cafeteria or in a cafe and enjoy our meal together.  Sadly, this seems to be a lost art form and more often than not, people now eat at their desks in front of a computer.  Break the mold!  Ask your colleagues to join you for a lunch break.  Perhaps you start with baby steps and eat your meal together in your office, but turn the computer monitor off!  Taking the time to talk with your colleagues and eat more mindfully will nourish the body and mind providing much needed fuel for the afternoon.
  4. Portion your snacks.  Get yourself some snack-size baggies or small glass pyrex jars.  Portion our 1/4 cup of nuts, or if you like bars (which can be complete calorie/sugar land minds) try KIND and look for those with only 4g of sugar.  Try cutting the bar into four bites and only bringing two of the pieces with you in your purse or lunch bag.  If you open a whole bar, you’ll eat it, right?  But maybe you only need a few bites.  Experiment with this practice.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar Spritzer.  Cut the afternoon munchies off at the pass by enjoying a spritzer of ACV and seltzer.  You can bring the ACV to work in a mason jar and add cold seltzer when you are ready to drink.  Apple cider vinegar has a sweet and tangy taste and how been shown to stabilize blood sugar along with several other health benefits.

Please share comments below!

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  1. Mom

    I am so trying #5 as I think I get dehydrated in the afternoon and as a result feel tired. Adding that to my S&S list! 🙂

    1. eroderick

      If you can find it, get the Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar as it is delightful!

  2. jean dansak

    Great post, Jan. Anytime I have a job that I do from home I am challenged by wanting to munch all day long!

  3. eroderick

    As a fellow work-from-homer for more than half the week, I find myself just not buying anything that could possibly be a munchy snack or else surely at some point during the day…I will eat it. Any other tips besides bare cupboards? 🙂

    1. It’s such a great question! I try to avoid the kitchen in general in the afternoon. I know that is a challenge in your house, but try saying to yourself: this is just another room, and just because I am in it, doesn’t mean I need to eat!

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