According to the American Time Use Survey, employed Americans ages 25 to 54 spend their days like this: 8.8 hours working or in work-related activities, 7.7 hours sleeping, 2.6 hours doing leisure and sports activities, and 1.2 hours caring for others, including children. The remaining time was spent doing other activities, including eating and drinking, attending school, and shopping. (Well, regarding shopping ... they weren't talking about me!)
What drove me to write this story is that this week I gave a keynote presentation to 100 well-educated, top-level management employees. My audience was made up of men and women of varying backgrounds, who discussed a wide range of nutrition-related issues. A pre-conference survey revealed that their top three concerns included the desire for more energy, stress-busting ideas and tips on how to make quick, balanced meals.
Although my workshop lasted for more than three hours, here's a taste of how you can stay happier and healthier during the majority of your day:
1. Boost your breakfast. Skipping breakfast leads to an invitation to overeat at lunch. There's a greater chance that you'll make breakfast a regular habit if you make it simple: Add some high-fiber cereal to Greek yogurt, toss some sliced almonds into your cold cereal, bring a packet of instant oatmeal to work, grab an individually wrapped pack of cheese and whole-grain crackers. Even a small breakfast is better than none.
[Read: Unusual Uses for Greek Yogurt.]
2. BYOS (Bring Your Own Snacks). Just in case lunch is delayed by a meeting that runs overtime or hunger hits in late afternoon, your desk drawer could be your savior if it's stocked with a jar of almond butter, a bag of plastic knives and some whole-grain crackers. Deciding on snacks ahead of time could save you from spending extra money on vending machine regrets or dipping into that bowl of candy at the receptionist's desk.
3. Don't leave home without it. No, I'm not talking about your credit cards. For those who travel for business, I'm referring to packing snacks you can rely on without having to break the calorie bank at the airport. Include energy bars that will give you energy instead of zapping it by choosing one with at least 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and sugar that comes from real ingredients like dried fruit. Check food labels to see what you're really getting.
4. Raise a glass. Dehydration can lead to a lack of concentration, irritability, constipation, bloating, fatigue and weakness – not something you want to bring to work with you. It's easier to drink water at room temperature than when it's too hot or cold. Drink herbal tea in a big mug, or enjoy a "mock Sangria" with co-workers by keeping a pitcher of water with cut-up ripe fruit in the office fridge.
5. Catch a smile. The only thing that is truly "one size fits all" is a smile. Happier people are healthier people, so try to drink only from glasses that are half full.
6. Don't just sit there. As the tech world explodes, the exercise we seem to be getting most of is surfing the web and racing around a keyboard. Exercise will stimulate your circulation, ease digestion and help you think more clearly. Even if you have a desk job, you can take a mid-day walk, stand up and stretch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. (Jumping to conclusions does not count!)
7. Fight de-zzzzzz. By shutting down before shutting your eyes, you'll give yourself a chance to decompress. Unplug your computer, tablet, TV and phone at least an hour before bedtime to rest your eyes and relax your mind. Studies show a lack of sleep could lead to a lack of attention, an excess of weight and a host of other illnesses.
[Read: Trouble Sleeping? Ask Yourself Why.]
One of my father's favorite expressions was "health is wealth." As a kid growing up, I never really knew what that meant, but now the sentiment behind those words is crystal clear. If you don't value your health, the amount of money you make at work will not be worth all of your efforts. Invest in your health, and you'll enjoy the rewards throughout your lifetime. Start by adding yourself to your to-do list today.
Hungry for more? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns and feedback.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.