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The biggest complaint that I hear from those trying to eat properly is lack of time. I am too familiar with this problem. I first decided to start changing my eating habits when working as an associate teacher at a high stakes charter school. My day started at 7:30 AM, so I’d leave my place in a rush and skip out on breakfast. I couldn’t leave the school for lunch (first year teachers were put on lunch duty) so I either didn’t eat or ate whatever food was around—wheat-thins, high sugary/additive processed foods, etc. But once I started getting sick from all this food (which by the way, speaks to what we’re putting in our children’s bodies everyday, but that’s another post) I decided to start making eating healthy a priority. In doing so, I learned that the key to eating properly at work is to really utilize your workspace. Here’s how I did it:
Leave Food at Work
For breakfast, store some breakfast that can be made quickly. Keep a mix of gluten free rolled oats, chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, and cinnamon in the office. I eat the mixture with almond milk, but if you don’t have access to a refrigerator, you can cook the mixture with hot water. This can also be a great before-work breakfast; just throw the mix in a tupperware bowl with some almond milk to take with you on-the-go.
For lunch, keep avocados and flaxseed crackers/gluten-free bread at your office to make an on-the-go sandwich. If you have access to a fridge, add lettuce, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar so you can throw together a salad in a few minutes.
Have Snacks on Hand
Even when I stocked the fridge while teaching, sometimes I didn’t even have time to run to the kitchen to put together my lunch. That’s how crazy the day would get! So you should keep emergency snacks on you at all times, especially if you have a job where your lunchtime hours are unpredictable.
Here are some of the snacks I like:
Lara bars–perfect if you have a little bit of a sweet tooth.
Almonds/individual packets of raw almond butter– extremely filling and provide an excellent source of good fats to keep you focused throughout your day!
Roasted soy nuts– good for energy and a complete source of protein.
Green Vibrance–super greens that can be mixed with water to make a green-juice type mix. It don’t taste too great, but gives you tons of nutrients and energy to keep you full and on-your-feet. It also provides a huge source of green vegetables in one serving!
Organic, Cage-Free, Hard Boiled Eggs–although I generally try to stay away from eggs, a hardboiled egg or two can replace a full meal for my non-vegan friends. Boil a bunch over the weekend so that you can throw some into your bag in the mornings.
Exercise Your Right to Take a Lunch Break
If you’re in New York, chances are that you have a boss who tries to make you work through your lunch break. Guess what–that is not legal (at least in NY). Many Unemployment Insurance judges have even held that employees quitting due to their bosses’ repeated failure to grant a 30 minute (uninterrupted) lunch break were entitled to unemployment benefits! Bottom line–always take your lunch break–it’s your right!
Prepare Smoothies—Before Work and At Work
Drinking smoothies is the best way to satisfy hunger with minimal effort. If you have a few minutes in the morning, throw some spinach, chard, banana, and mango with water in a blender and put it in a to-go cup before getting to work. If you don’t have time in the morning, invest in a portable blender –I got mine for only $15—and keep it at work so that you can make a two-minute smoothie once you get to the office or during a short break. This may seem a little strange, but it definitely pays off. Even the judge that I’m currently interning for in the S.D.N.Y keeps a magic bullet blender in his chambers!
Water, Water, Water
Sometimes when we’re busy, we forget the most important thing—WATER! You need to keep a huge water bottle with you all day. I have a friend who keeps a gallon of water in her classroom. Keep a large water bottle (at least one liter) with you at your desk (or in your classroom, postal bag, etc.) and make sure to drink at least half of it before lunch and the other half after lunch.
Eating on-the- go may be tough, but it’s not impossible. With preparation and dedication, you can find yourself eating healthy at work without interfering too much with your schedule. Happy eating!
I was recently in California and had a great time. To start off the trip, on the plane with me was Alexis Bledel, the beautiful star of Gilmore Girls! After going up to her and admitting that I was a fan, we briefly chatted about healthy eating. She told me that although she is not a vegetarian, she often gives up meat when she wants to “feel lighter.” And why not? In Los Angeles, I learned, you can be vegetarian nearly anywhere. So even though I packed my bag with all the necessary travel foods and tools—Green Vibrancepackets, my normal supplements, a portable blender, chia seeds, and buckwheat Go Raw granola—it turns out I didn’t need any of it. Practically everywhere I went had a vegan, gluten- free option. Here are some of the places I checked out.
Baja Fresh Salad
Veggie Grill, 2533 Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, CA
Aw man, I fell in love with this place. I went there at least three times during my trip. The first time I went, I had the baja fresh salad with quinoa and avocado. The second time, I had a Portabella veggie burger, no bun, and the last time I had the tempeh bowl. The food was fast, delicious, and served with West Coast smiles. And best of all, it was inexpensive! I hope they expand to New York—the city could certainly use an affordable vegan, gluten-free fast food joint!
Hillstone Restaurant, 202 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA
Although this place is not vegetarian or gluten-free, they quickly accommodated to my eating habits. Their veggie burger—which is made with brown rice—can be made gluten-free and vegan. And with the Santa Monica pier close by, what more can you ask for?
“I am Liberated” kelp noodles with grated nut cheese
Café Gratitude, 639 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
As a New Yorker, going to Café Gratitude was quite the experience. I was greeted by our server with an airy, “Hello sweeties,” before taking a look at the menu. As I looked down, there were dishes with the titles “I am guapa (beautiful),” and “I am Liberated.” As I ordered my meal, the waitress repeated it back to me “You are liberated” “You are beautiful.” While the Brooklynite in me may have wanted to gag a little, my vegan persuasion ate it right up, and I left the restaurant feeling refreshed and bubbly. It definitely had a different environment–the person sitting next to us (who happens to be a health coach named Steve Factor) even offered us a bite of his food! What I liked most about the place were its desserts—many of which were made with coconuts and dates, not agave, which is high in fructose and not nearly as healthful as many health restaurants would have you believe!
Delightful Crepes Café, 1190 N. Studebaker Rd, Long Beach, CA
As my boyfriend and I came back from a day in Los Angeles (we stayed with his family, who lives in Seal Beach) we stopped by a 7-11 to pick up some gum. I wanted something sweet, but was sure I wouldn’t be able to find anything other than maybe a piece of fruit or some tea. We saw the Café right next to the 7-11 and thought, “who knows, maybe they’ll have something.” Turns out they did. They told me they could make every crepe gluten and dairy-free. Sure enough, I tried a berry-crepe with fruit and it was delicious. I had it with a fresh pot of Rooibos tea. What a sweet surprise.
LA, thanks for showing me a great time, great food, and some Vitamin D-filled sunshine!