How to Eat Right, Office Lunch Edition

nomFast food feels efficient, reports the Harvard Business Review, but a dish of cheesy fries at lunch — however cheap and delicious — will set you back, productivity-wise, through the rest of the workday.

Unhealthy lunch options also tend to be cheaper and faster than healthy alternatives, making them all the more alluring in the middle of a busy workday. They feel efficient. Which is where our lunchtime decisions lead us astray. We save 10 minutes now and pay for it with weaker performance the rest of the day.

So what are we to do? One thing we most certainly shouldn’t do is assume that better information will motivate us to change. Most of us are well aware that scarfing down a processed mixture of chicken bones and leftover carcasses is not a good life decision. But that doesn’t make chicken nuggets any less delicious.

No, it’s not awareness we need—it’s an action plan that makes healthy eating easier to accomplish. Here are some research-based strategies worth trying.

The suggestions are pretty familiar. Keep almonds by your computer. What if I don’t like almonds? Also, they’re expensive. STOP TELLING ME TO EAT ALMONDS, unless you feel like subsidizing my almonds, and/or dipping them in chocolate for me.

Graze all day long instead of bombing your system with one huge lunch. Specifically, graze on produce: “The more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions), the happier, more engaged, and more creative they tended to be.” OK fine, bananas for everyone. Just check them first for killer spiders.

The advice I like best is to figure out what you’re going to do for lunch well ahead of time:

make your eating decisions before you get hungry. If you’re going out to lunch, choose where you’re eating in the morning, not at 12:30 PM. If you’re ordering in, decide what you’re having after a mid-morning snack. Studies show we’re a lot better at resisting salt, calories, and fat in the future than we are in the present.

Hate thinking about lunch? No problem. Sleep is more important than food, anyway. As long as it’s the right kind of sleep. Too complicated? Forget it. Here’s today’s real takeaway: feel free to drink as much coffee as you like. It’ll compensate for shitty eating and shitty sleeping. You’re welcome.

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