wellness @ work: food and drink

Almost two years ago, a guy from LeanKit came to speak to my marketing class at Vandy about internships at a software startup in Franklin.

Little did I know that I would start my career at LeanKit after graduation, that LeanKit would grow exponentially, that that guy, Carl, would become one of my dearest friends, or that I’d be able to use the skills I learned at LeanKit to create and manage this blog.

Funny how life happens. 

One of the things that drew me to LeanKit was that it was founded on a culture that encourages people to be people: to have a life outside of work, take care of themselves and their families, and not be slaves to their jobs. The result, of course, is that our people work hard, get stuff done, and love what they do. Amazing!

I feel very grateful to work in an environment where I’m encouraged to take care of myself, take breaks as needed, and actually enjoy the 40+ hours I spend in the office (or working at home) each week. Of course, it’s up to me to take advantage of those opportunities — if I wanted to eat a #saddesklunch, take no breaks, and work myself to the bone, I definitely could. Luckily, I have the self-awareness to know that I’m (note: all of us are) most productive when I’m happy and balanced, so I make the effort to prioritize wellness at work.

Over these past 18 or so months, I’ve learned a lot about how to navigate the challenges of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle with a 9-5 desk job. Here are a few of the tried-and-true habits I’ve maintained that have allowed me to stay sane (mostly), feel good (mostly), and have the energy to give it my all at work and at home (most of the time). I’ll be sharing these habits in a series of posts over the next few weeks. Enjoy.  

wellness at work: food

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start with a solid breakfast

Roll your eyes as much as you want: everything said about breakfast is true. It sets you up for success or failure, and says a lot about how the rest of your day will go. Do it right: Make breakfast ahead of time, something you can grab and start eating in less than two minutes. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with nutritious, quick breakfast foods, like full-fat Greek yogurts, bananas, apples, and hard-boiled eggs.

Other quick breakfasts I ❤

Each of these provide a whole foods, clean breakfast that (with a giant cup of tea/coffee and a full bottle of ice water) will give you a focused, intentional start to your day.

BYO lunch 

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One of my favorite podcasts, Happier, had an episode recently about trying to do something every day as a way to establish a good habit. The argument is, if you decide to do something daily, like flossing, you’ll be more likely to do it on most days. If you try to do something every other day, or once a week, it might be more difficult to establish and stick to the habit, and you’re likely to fall out of rhythm and drop the habit entirely.

This is definitely true of bringing lunch to work — it’s a mindset that you’re either in (which makes it easy to do) or you’re not in (which makes it more difficult to remember to do). If you bring your lunch to work everyday, you’re likely to make decisions like these, which make it easier to continue to bring your lunch to work everyday:

  • I should double this recipe for dinner so I have some for lunch tomorrow (stay tuned for quick meal prepping tips in a later post!).
  • I should pack my lunch bag before I go to bed.
  • If there are (healthy) leftovers from today’s catered lunch, I should grab some to have for lunch tomorrow.

If you pack your lunch daily, you’ll also get better at packing fun, creative lunches in a pinch. Some lunch “concepts” I’ve developed over the last two years are:

  • Picnic: An assortment of finger foods like turkey-avocado rollups, mini sweet bell peppers, almonds, and grapes.
  • Soup and toast: Keep single-servings of homemade soup (I use quart-sized deli containers to freeze my soups) and a loaf of sliced sprouted grain bread in the freezer. Leave the soup out at room temp in the morning, toast the bread, and you’ll have a warm, hearty meal with zero effort.
  • Taco salad bowls: Leftover meat from dinner with organic tortilla chips, avocado, salsa, and Greek yogurt over a bed of greens.

Bringing your lunch saves money and time and helps you make healthy decisions at lunchtime. Plus, instead of wasting your lunch hour in the car fighting traffic and hunting for food, you can eat your lunch and then take a relaxing walk before getting back at it, which is something I try to do most days.

If you’re going to buy a lunch, use one of my ordering paleo guides: Jimmy John’s, Chipotle, Chik-Fil-A.

BYO snacks

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At LeanKit, we’re fortunate to have an endless supply of snacks provided for us, which is as wonderful as it is dangerous. There are several healthy options, like Larabars, fresh fruit, hummus and baby carrots, Kind bars, etc.

But there are also many of my former vices: namely, Cheetos and Oreos. In addition, there’s almost always some kind of food for grabs in the cafe, either left over from someone’s kid’s birthday party, a catered lunch, etc. Very rarely are these leftovers part of a clean, mostly paleo diet — and without a proper replacement, I’m likely to fall victim to their sugary, gluten-y temptations.

I bring these things to work with me almost every day, to fight off any kind of hunger or craving that might strike:

  • Full-fat Greek yogurt (with a little raw honey)
  • Apple
  • Organic brown rice cakes
  • Quest bar (chocolate chip cookie dough)
  • A nut mix of cashews, almonds, and extra-dark chocolate chips

Although sometimes my brain convinces me that it will be fun to eat a random, day-old cupcake in the middle of morning, these kinds of “surprise” foods always leave me tired, bloated, and sluggish. Bringing my own assortment of healthy (and enjoyable) snacks helps me remain a sense of control over what I’m eating, without feeling like I’m being punished.

The only exception I’ll make is when my coworker Kreya brings Vegan Vee donuts, which are gluten- and dairy- free, small enough to be reasonable, and very, very delicious.

drink responsibly

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If you’ve been around me in the last two years, I probably had a coffee in my hand. I’ve used coffee to fight off fatigue, headaches, anxiety, etc. since I was 18 or 19. Read as: I’ve been using coffee as a way to avoid listening to my body since I was 18 or 19.

Since my month of migraines, I’ve scaled back the java juicing, and replaced the coffee with an exciting variety of herbal teas. There are literally hundreds of types of teas, each of which can help you feel energized, calm, comforted, soothed, etc. depending on what you need. It’s a fun way to bring excitement and variety in your work day. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Yerba mate: Packs a one-two punch with energizing caffeine and tons of B vitamins. Great as a substitute for coffee. Excellent over ice.
  • Rooibos (red tea): Earthy, delicious tea that’s high in antioxidants and low in tannins (which contribute to headaches!). Great for bedtime because it’s caffeine free.
  • Peppermint: Amazing after a meal because it aids in digestion. Also great when you have a headache.
  • Cinnamon-y herbal: I love Good Earth’s Organic Sweet and Spicy tea for a mid-day boost.

If I am going to have coffee (which I still do most days), I try to limit to one cup, ideally cold brew — the low acidity of cold brewed coffee is better for our bodies (and tastes better) than normal coffee.

happy working!

What do you do to stay healthy at work? What’s your biggest struggle? Comment below! ❤

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