With companies across the country returning to the office, your time of stretchy pants, zoom meetings, slipshod personal grooming, and wandering to the fridge for a spot of snacking, is on the way back out.
For some, going back to the office is a great opportunity to make and re-make connections, get back into the workplace mindset, and get a haircut, while others dread the commute, the need for clothing, the thought of face-to-face meetings, and the office kitchen.
One thing you may not have considered is how and what you are going to eat when you are back at the office. In the workplace, you are more limited than at home for timing lunch, taking breaks, and what they may entail food-wise.
The option to be lazy and order eats from an app is more likely to dwindle as well, due to office policies, availability, and the confines of your own budget.
The following collection of tips and tricks will help you navigate the lunch landscape and re-align your mind and stomach as they get back to the office, so you can stay happy, healthy, and invested in what you put in your lunchbox.
1. The Condiments Cache
Having a little drawer or satchel packed with various tasty bits and pieces is great to have on hand for livening up a pre-made sandwich, sub, or salad.
Try to make sure your little stash has a few different flavors; mine’s equipped with salt and pepper, a couple of different hot sauces (Huey Fong Sriracha, Frank’s Xtra Hot, and a green sauce), ketchup, ranch dressing, and a few rough and ready herb mixes.
These tasty options, close to hand, are a great way to pep up a boring meal, bringing a crucial psychological trick if you struggle to stick with lunchtime consistency or weekly meal prep.
2. Utilize a Bento Box (or Lunch Box)
My wife got me a nifty Japanese bento box to pack lunch into. It’s small, which means I have to pack the right amount of everything, rather than a lot.
It’s been an unexpected joy, and makes me want to open it all the time to take a look inside, even though I know what is in there.
These multi-compartment containers can range from stylish works of art, to simplicity in plastic. I recommend getting one that can be insulated for hot and cold foods and/or has a section for sauces.
Whether the contents of your bento box lunch is Japanese style, interconnected small meals packed with taste and flavor, or one featuring more eclectic western foods and snacks to help get you through the long office day, they make lunchtime a more interesting, fun-filled experience.
3. Make Meal Prep More Varied (and Healthy)
The idea of going back to weekly meal prep will be daunting for some, while for others getting back into a routine of healthy food is just what you need after the long time spent working and eating with your home fridge close by.
Here’s some advice on the best foods to get the most out of your meal prep, and another on carb replacement options if you are like me and need some help to shed a few pandemic pounds.
4. Why Not Make Lunch Fun?
There are a number of ways that you can make lunches more fun, or at least more motivational. The following ideas can help take the drudgery out of lunchtime, and you can get the rest of the family involved.
- Write down some affirmations or fun facts to read while you are eating. Even just a momentary break from your work thoughts can prove vital at keeping your brain happy during a long day.
- Do blind lunches. Your spouse, kids, or roomies can (hopefully) fill a lunch box and vice versa, so whatever comes out is a surprise. (Set some parameters though – the vegemite, cheese, and cereal sandwich I got from my kids is still taking time to process).
- If you have close friends and colleagues you spend heaps of time with at the office, do it like we used to as kids and trade lunch or snack options, or pick a food or cuisine you wish to eat on one day of the week, and challenge each other’s creativity.
- Make your lunch look interesting and fun; use color, try to make patterns, throw in a kids toy, or put a joke on your wrapping.
There are plenty of innovative little ways to do things slightly differently, that can make eating at your desk or the lunchroom just that little bit more enjoyable.
5. Avoid the Snacks Drawer, or Keep it Limited
Having snacks like potato chips or candy bars is a hard habit to break whether you are working from home or the office. There’s also the temptation to take a break and raid your office vending machine or chocolate charity drive.
If you can eliminate or limit these snacks, or have double the amount of healthy options such as popcorn, fruit, low carb/sugar protein bars, or salt-free nuts and trail mix handy, your brain and your body will thank you.
6. Try to Take a Real Break
In many workplaces, there’s no real place to tune out for a bit and recharge, or go outside and take a walk or sit quietly for a bit.
This is a tough one because it’s likely you can eat lunch while you work to shorten your day and keep everything moving along.
Even if you eat lunch at your desk, try to give yourself a mental break while doing so. Ignore your phone while you do it!
Maybe share your time with a co-worker, or do something solo that re-sets your synapses (I prefer word puzzles over sudoku, for example). I also need to stretch my neck and shoulders. It looks strange to people looking on but keeps me from chronic pain, and a headache.
You’d be surprised how important this small daily rest break can make to your mental health and productivity.
Admittedly, I’m not re-inventing the wheel here. The return to a workplace post-pandemic offers you the opportunity to reset your goals and office habits.
And, you need not do it alone. Making a creative, recharging lunch routine can be achieved by everyone.SKM: below-content placeholder