4 Ways to Eat Mindfully in a Busy Workplace

With the hustle and bustle of work, meetings and deadlines, it's often difficult to eat healthy. But for those who find themselves face-to-face with the vending machine, the ones who skip meals and everyone in between, there is one tactic that seems to help in all situations: mindful eating. More and more studies support the concept of eating mindfully, which can ultimately help you develop healthier eating habits even in the most hectic of places—like at work!

Mindful eating involves being aware of the foods you choose to eat, the environment in which you are eating and your hunger cues. Many people don't pay attention to their daily eating habits while at work, whether they're grabbing an unhealthy snack at the vending machine or grazing on empty-calorie foods throughout the day. By the time you're ready to head home, you may realize that you haven't sat down to eat a meal, and yet have probably exceeded your daily calories.

Mindful eating requires that you use all your senses when you eat. You want to taste the food by eating slowly and enjoying every bite. You also want to choose a pleasant, stress-free environment to eat in with no electronic distractions. Consider turning your phone to "do not disturb" and sitting outside or by a window to eat without any distractions or with pleasant conversation. Use your other senses to enjoy the aroma of your food and enjoy the gorgeous hues (especially those from fruits and vegetables) that are on your plate. Mindful eating is an entire experience on its own—it doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be free of distractions and stress.

You may face different scenarios at work in which mindful eating can play a role. For a healthier mind and body, use these four scenarios to plug into your eating habits and truly honor your hunger for a more filling lunch break.

Scenario #1: Eating at your desk

Bringing leftover dinner for lunch is not a new concept, but Kellie Blake R.D.N., L.D., IFNCP of Nutrisense Nutrition says it's more effective if you portion it out the night before and take a few moments to focus on your meal. "Lunch is usually at my desk, so I have a short, five-minute meditation [session] to refocus and prepare my body for digestion. I avoid multitasking during the meal, but if something comes up, I handle it and then take a cleansing breath to refocus before resuming my meal," Blake explains. "This process has definitely improved my digestion, but also helps to combat that afternoon slump."

Another way to mindfully eat when you're chained to your desk is to find a quiet corner in your office where you can enjoy your food while taking in the happening outside. This small adjustment helps take your mind off some of the stress right in front of you, even if only for five or 10 minutes.

If you're so busy working at your desk and find yourself frequently ordering the closest meal, do some advanced planning. Over the weekend or during a less hectic day, find three healthy options that deliver that are close to your office. This way, when you're in a pinch, you have the contact information and exact dish to order on hand so there is no extra thinking involved.

Scenario #2: Work potluck

Everyone loves to share their delicious culinary creations, but this workplace staple can also lead to major calorie overload. Often people want to showcase family recipes or decadent desserts to please co-workers, often without thinking about ingredients or calories. Plus, there's a good chance that not everyone follows the same criteria for healthy cooking in the first place, and others may bring dishes that may not be familiar to you. According to Jaymar Saniatan, R.D., of Nutrition Phitness, though, there's no need to skip out on the fun. "Don't be afraid to try new dishes, but be aware of portion sizes," he advises. "The concern with food and health is not the actual food itself, [but is] more so how much of it we eat."

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., the creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It", on the other hand, takes potluck to a whole new healthy level. She recommends bringing mindfulness into the lunchroom by establishing a weekly or monthly healthier potluck lunch you can share with co-workers. "One person can bring a salad, another can make a [healthy] main, another can bring beverages and someone else can do dessert, like a medley of fruit," explains Taub-Dix. "This is a great way to share favorite recipes while also saving time, money and maybe even calories.

Scenario #3: Eating on the go

Eating while running from meeting to meeting isn't the most mindful way to enjoy your food. Not only can you not savor every bite or hone into your hunger cues, but it's also a very stressful way to eat. To compromise, you can quickly grab a sandwich or salad to take with you, then find a quiet corner or seat to quietly enjoy your meal in five to 10 minutes before heading wherever it is you must go. This tactic doesn't slow you down completely, but allows you the time and space to be mindful of what you're eating.

Scenario #4: Snacking on treats in the break room

Birthdays and holidays like Halloween are days where you may be overwhelmed by calorie-heavy, sugar-laden treats. While you may feel a desire to support your workmates, you also don't want to allow own healthy ways to get off track, so it's common to feel pressured in these celebratory situations. Keeping your health and goals in mind doesn't mean that you need to avoid every sweet treat put in front of you, of course. If you feel that you want a treat, take a smaller portion (like half a donut or one cookie) and enjoy it. If you're in a situation where endless treats are being passed around, it may be smart to step away from the action so you're not right in the line of direct fire or feeling the guilt from colleagues to keep eating.

Another way to handle an overload of sweet treats is to find places to donate them. After Halloween, for example, some hospitals and other locations will take candy donations for those who were not able to celebrate the holiday. Offer to organize these donations and distribute the candy to those less fortunate. It's a good deed and a healthy choice all wrapped into one!

The office is a melting pot of different personalities, backgrounds and activity levels. As such, everyone's health goals will not always align with your own. Instead of avoiding food-centric social events at work or cursing your packed schedule because you're always forced to eat at your desk, implement these mindful practices for a healthier workday and, ultimately, a happier you.