Energized Eating for Working from Home

Healthy, energizing snacks and lunches to power you through your day
A scoop of almond butter on a spoon poised over a small bowl surrounded by raw almonds.
© CanStock Photo Inc. / [Chanelka005j]

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have shifted to working from home. While it has been a challenging transition, for many of us it has meant a shorter commute, more flexible work hours, and even more time spent with family. Plus, there has also been the added bonus of having food literally at your fingertips all day!

Unfortunately, having food this close at hand has had previously stringent three-meals-a-day-ers grazing all day, and emotional eaters endlessly snacking through the afternoons. Having unfettered access to the fridge and pantry can be a challenge for those who have previously brown-bagged it. However, as a registered dietitian with over 20 years of experience, I believe that you can work from home and still enjoy the perks of that open access kitchen. The secret is in pre-planning your day. Notice I didn’t say pre-plan for the entire week, which can be unrealistic, especially as we are already maxed out balancing home schooling our kids, feeding them and ourselves, while getting our own work done.

I have to admit that I didn’t make this a priority for the first few months of lockdown, and it showed. But now that I am working full-time and my three young kids are learning at home it’s a must-do, every weekday, in order for things to run smoothly. And if you’re struggling with making sure both you and your kids are getting balanced snacks and meals, focusing on preparing a snack or two or lunches to have at the ready the next day can make all the difference. Either way, doing a little daily make-ahead can help keep your energy consistent throughout the day a priority!

Prep Smart

Whether you are preparing snacks or lunches ahead of time, make sure that each includes a protein (P), fat (F), and carbohydrate (C) source. Not only does this take much of the guesswork out of meal prep, but when you consume protein, fat, and carbohydrates together, you are giving your body (and brain!) its best shot at maintaining the energy it needs to power through the day. I love this PFC approach (adapted from Cassie Bjork, The Healthy Simple Life) as it works well for kids and grownups alike.

Portion Primer

Meals: About the size and thickness of the palm of your hand
Snacks: about half that amount

1-2 servings for both meals and snacks (eg. 1 Tbsp oil, 2 Tbsp nut butter, 1 oz. cheese, ½ avocado)

Think non-starchy veggies (at least 1-2 cups per meal), while limiting those starchier vegetables like potatoes and corn, and simple carbohydrates like refined flours.

Snack Pack Attack

If you have time, go ahead and batch prep so you have plenty of snacks to last, but again, there’s no need to get bogged down by mass planning if your life is already fully packed. Even just taking care of the next day’s snacks puts you ahead of the game. Remember, think PFC!

  • ½ cup full fat cottage cheese (P, F) + ¼ cup raspberries (C)
  • ¼ cup nuts (F) + ½ cup blueberries (C) + 1 boiled egg (P)
  • ¼ cup soy nuts (P,F, C) + 1 Tbsp of chocolate chips (C)
  • 1-2 oz tuna (P) + 1-2 Tbsp unrefined mayo (F) + ½ c broccoli
  • ½ cup full fat plain Greek yogurt (P) +¼ c nuts (F) + ½ c berries (C)

Make Ahead Midday Meals

If you can, make lunches the night before. Not only does it reduce those endless requests for food, it also makes sure everyone has a PFC-balanced meal to propel them through their afternoon!

Bunches of Lunches

Simple salad

  • 2-3 soft boiled eggs (P)
  • 2 cups of salad greens (C) 
  • drizzled with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (F)

Loaded baked potato

  • 4 oz cooked shredded chicken (P)
  • 2 Tbsp full fat sour cream (F) 
  • ½ cup broccoli
  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • inside a small baked sweet potato (C)

Tasty tapas

  • 3 deviled eggs (P,F)
  • 2 Tbsp hummus (P,F)
  • with 1 cup green peppers and ½ cucumbers (C)

Light lunch

  • 1 cup full fat cottage cheese (P,F)
  • with ¼ c nuts (F)
  • ½ cup Roma tomatoes (C)

Taco bowl

  • 4 oz cooked ground beef (P)
  • ½ cup black beans (P)
  • ½ avocado(F)
  • 1 cup spinach
  • ½ cup each chopped tomatoes and peppers (C)

PFC smoothie

  • 1 scoop protein powder (P)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (F)
  • 1 cup each blueberries and spinach (C)

Working from home and staying energized is possible with a little pre-planning and some built-in food prep time. Don’t forget that getting adequate rest and developing doable daily stress reduction techniques, like getting outside for a walk, can also make all the difference in getting through these trying times!

You may also enjoy: Healthy Lunch Prep, Pack, and Store Solutions8 Natural Ways to Boost Workplace Health, and Beat Afternoon Fatigue Without Coffee!

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