How To Eat Well And Stay Healthy Despite Long Work Hours

Photo: diego_cervo

At some point in your career, you will work long hours. Right now, for example, you may be spending loads of time strategizing the launch of a new product, poring over statistics to pinpoint the cause of a quality glitch in manufacturing, or setting up a global supply chain to make sure that your company delivers its first shipment to a new account on time.

Fewer hours in your day means less time to prepare and eat healthy food. But with a little planning and a couple of handy apps, you can sustain yourself and avoid developing unhealthy habits.

Focus on Saving Calories, not Money

As a business owner or manager, you are on a constant quest to derive the best value for every dollar you spend. But cost-saving initiatives may not apply to purchase decisions if you eat out frequently. Carefully engineered (and manipulative) menu pricing steers buyers to larger portion sizes at restaurants, whether it's a quick-serve establishment or a fine dining restaurant. Reject the idea that getting the least expensive price on a per ounce basis is the optimal choice in terms of eating well.

Davis Liu, M.D., family physician and author of Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely: Making Intelligent Choices in America's Healthcare System says choosing right-sized portions saves time (and money):

“Yes, it [the footlong compared to the 6-inch sub] might be cheaper, but the cost to your health (with the added calories) and the time you don’t have to burn it off (that is why you are working long hours, right?) is saved with a smaller portion size.”

And, as most people are aware, portions have grown larger over time, contributing to an obesity epidemic in the United States. Dr. Liu points to Portion Distortion as a way to see just how much our sense of the right portions may be skewed. For example, there are 615 more calories in today’s version of a coffee and muffin than those served 20 years ago, requiring more than a couple of hours of moderate activity to burn the extra caloric fuel.

Embrace the Predictable

Innovation drives success in business. But predictability and consistency — yes, those boring, same-old, same-old choices — are beneficial and conducive to eating well during long workweeks.

Dr. Liu uses Jared of Subway as an example. This now-famous dieter ate the same lunch and same dinner for months as a simple way to lose weight.

“If you go out to a lot to restaurants, pick a few options that you are familiar with so you aren’t always faced in trying to figure out if an option is healthy or not,” he advises. This approach “takes the stress out of deciding” and reduces the possibility of making an “emotional or hunger purchase.”

Before you begin marathon workdays, check out menus online or ask about healthy options at local restaurants, and then decide on a few items to eat on a regular basis.

Follow a Game Plan

Plan for the week so that the morning rush does not thwart your intentions to eat well. Develop a plan and stock supplies for breakfasts, snacks, and lunches.


  • Fruit smoothies. Keep frozen fruit, yogurt, and orange juice on hand as well as add-ins such as flax seed and peanut butter; blend together in the morning for a quick breakfast.
  • Oatmeal. Stock oatmeal and add-ins such as dried fruit and nuts as well as butter or a healthy butter substitute along with spoons and microwavable bowls; prepare at home or at your workplace.
  • DIY egg sandwich. Use basic food pantry supplies such as eggs, bread (or bagels), milk, and cheese to prepare a hearty breakfast sandwich.


  • Fruit. Buy ready-to-eat fruit and/or prepare a batch for the week, such as bananas and oranges that require no preparation; apples and grapes that simply need washing; pineapple and kiwi that can be peeled, chopped, and stored for easy access.
  • Trail mix. Make your own and create reasonable daily portions of healthy nuts and dried fruit.
  • Vegetables. Prepare raw vegetables and dip, such as hummus or a yogurt-based recipe.


  • Homemade one-dish meals. Develop a repertoire of home-cooked meals that reheat well; bring a large portion and divide into individual meals throughout the week.
  • Soup. Make vegetable and bean soups; bring jars of soup for the week.
  • Supplies. Keep staples and kitchen supplies on hand such as salad dressing, bread, and peanut butter as well as plates, cups, and utensils.

Use Healthy Food-Related Apps

If long hours mean that you don't have time to plan and prepare meals, apps may help you to quickly find and evaluate sources of healthy food.

  • Restaurant Nutrition offers nutritional stats on common meals at restaurant chains;
  • Fooducate provides nutritional information by scanning bar codes on packaged food;
  • Yelp leads you to local fruit stands and health-focused restaurants that serve fresh food.
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