Did you know that people snack more at work than they do at home? So how do you make sure those snacks are healthy and supporting your overall healthy lifestyle? Today I discuss some research to help you create the right environment for healthy snacking!
There are a variety of reasons people make certain food choices including health, price, familiarity, and affect. Today we are going to focus on health and affect since they are particularly important in the work environment.
When someone is motivated by health when making their food choices, they try to have a balanced diet to maintain or improve their health. When you feel this motivation throughout the day, you are more likely to make healthy choices when looking for something to snack on.
Affect Regulation Motive
However, people are sometimes motivated to pick their foods based on their emotions. For example, if you are in a bad mood, you want something to comfort you or make you feel better. You want to deal with your negative emotions with the food you eat. When you feel this type of motivation during the day, you are much more likely to make unhealthy food choices when looking for a snack.
What You Can Do
Your motivations during the work day influence your food choices at work. In order to make healthy choices, you need to keep reminding yourself of the importance of your health to keep that health motivation front and center. For example, you can follow people that model nutritious eating on social media, keep a poster in your office that motivates you to be healthy, or create alerts on your phone that remind you to think healthy! It’s also good to monitor your snacking when you are feeling bad about something else. Just being conscious of your emotional eating might help reduce it!
Organizational Eating Climate
Even if you have a lot of techniques in place to help you stay motivated to make healthy decisions, it is easy to get derailed. Your work environment actually can have a big impact on your food choices.
Having a healthy organizational eating climate is important in healthy snacking at work. An organizational eating climate is the common view across employees of the food environment at a workplace. A healthy organizational eating climate means that:
- Many employees and leaders share the value of eating healthily,
- The organization encourages healthy eating by providing healthy food, seminars on nutrition, etc., and,
- Employees and leaders talk about eating in a healthy way, usually in informal conversation.
You can probably see the importance of having a healthy eating climate. It is easy for you to settle on unhealthy eating behaviors if the company doesn’t encourage people to think about their health.
What You Can Do
You can help create a healthy eating climate. Talk about the importance of healthy eating with your team! Bring healthy snacks that you like to share with others. Ask for (or provide, if you are a decision maker) healthy snack options. You can influence those around you to make your work environment healthier!
Also, remember that this isn’t about weight – it’s about health. Making comments about weight loss or appearance in the workplace can make others feel uncomfortable or can trigger those who have more complicated relationships with eating. The point is that the workplace should encourage people to be healthy – whatever that looks like for them. So, doing what is healthy for you might help others to do what is healthy for them – even if those things aren’t the same. By making the focus on health, instead of size, you can ensure that you are being inclusive in your approach.
We all know that choosing a healthy snack takes some self-control. Many of us would rather pick a quick but unhealthy choice over a thoughtful but more healthy choice. And did you know that if you use your self-control a lot, it’s hard to continue to use it? Research shows that if you need self-control to complete one task, it’s hard to use that self-control in the next thing you do. Your motivation to use your self-control is lower after you’ve been using it for a while.
On the job, you are likely using self-control throughout the day. For example, you may have to force yourself to stay focused on a boring task or stay friendly with someone who has made you angry. Those things take self-control! Unfortunately, research shows that if you have been using self-control on the job for your work tasks, you are more likely to choose unhealthy behaviors. Your ability to use self-control is low and so you pick something unhealthy for you instead of something healthy.
Remember that using self control about eating looks different for everyone. For instance, someone with diabetes may have to remember to take breaks to eat, instead of trying to avoid taking eating breaks. So, whether eating more or less is healthy for you, it is important to take the time to make well-thought out choices.
What You Can Do
In order to be able to use your self-control when choosing snacks, you need to make sure you don’t exhaust your ‘self-control muscle’. Use breaks to help you recover from using self-control. You can also switch to a task that doesn’t require as much self-control. Maybe do those boring, hard-to-focus-on tasks right after lunch. Try to do something that doesn’t require self-control before your typical snack time.
Healthy eating at work is within your control. Depending on the situation though, it can sometimes be harder to do so. You can help yourself by creating reminders about why you should eat in a healthy way, creating a healthy organizational eating climate, and recovering well after tasks that require lots of self-control. With whatever is healthy for you, make sure that you don’t throw your good practices away at work. Try to maintain practices that help you to make healthy choices no matter where you are.
Now, we’d love to hear from you! Have you struggled with unhealthy eating behaviors at work? What has helped you eat better at work?