If you have always worked from home (or have just started doing so since the pandemic started), being tempted to mindlessly snack or eat while putting in your work can quickly become a regular habit. Experts Rachel Hall and Danielle Pashko break down the reasons for some of these habits and how you can work towards changing them.

There are a few reasons why you might not be eating when you are truly hungry. Having the munchies might be an automatic response to stress, nerves, anxiety, and fatigue.  

Recess chatted with both experts to get some insight on how you can still enjoy the food you eat without overindulging. Danielle Pashko, founder of Pashko Wellness answered a few questions that many of us are thinking about but may not know who to ask.

Recess: It’s easy to mindless snack when at home; what are some ways to tap into your true hunger? 

Danielle Pashko (DP): When you eat a meal that is nutrient-dense and substantial, you may crave a snack but it shouldn’t be true hunger. This is the pitfall of “dieting” because very restricted meals (especially when skimping on protein and healthy fat) can end up leaving you feeling ravenous. I have a sweet tooth myself, but I plan out what my snacks will be before I eat them. Eating a single snack like a piece of fruit, a measured tablespoon of nut butter, or low-fat Greek yogurt is considered a single snack. It becomes problematic when you have an open bag of even “healthy chips or popcorn” or loose fruit like grapes or cherries because there is no end to the amount you can eat. Endless snacking of “healthy foods” can easily cause a stomach ache and weight gain. Portion your snack first and don’t go back for seconds.

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Recess: What are some easy, filling lunch ideas?

DP: If you are a sandwich person, ditch the bread and have a grain-free tortilla instead. Some of the best to look for come from Chickpea or coconut. Usually, one tortilla is considered a half serving and is only around 60 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates. Add your favorite protein – like 4oz of grilled chicken, tuna, tofu, or salmon along with 1/4-1/2 small avocado and stuff with veggies.

Recess: When ordering take out any helpful tips?

DP: Eyeball your food and assume your takeout is a double portion. Cut it in half and see if 1/2 a serving is filling enough before you continue eating. Additionally, sauces, dressings, and marinades can contribute to bloating, water retention, and weight gain. Try to have everything simply grilled with the sauce on the side. Additionally, when portioning out food, you have to factor in your appetizer. Once you get to your main dish, imagine the appetizer you just ate sitting next to it. Before you overeat, remember: your appetizer counts.

Rachel Hall, Fitness Director of Body FX knows a few things when it comes to creating an environment that fosters eating habits that can make you feel good in your body. Hall shares her hacks with Recess – the best part is how attainable and affordable these tips are! Not exactly a cook? Don’t worry, Rachel has you covered, her suggestions are for all!

7 Hacks for Making Healthy Meals at Home

1. Invest in a Slow Cooker and Instant Pot: Use a slow cooker and Instant Pot to cook large batches of food at once. A slow cooker is a set-it-and-forget-it option. You can set it before bed or work and when you wake up or arrive home, lunch and dinner will be finished.  An Instant Pot is for those times when you get home and realize you forgot to pull out something from the freezer.  An instant pot can cook frozen food in a fraction of the time.

Either way, both of these kitchen items are stress-free solutions.

2. Schedule Time to Prep:  Meal prep is the cornerstone of good nutrition! Schedule some time each week to prep meals in advance. This could mean cooking a big batch of rice or quinoa, chopping vegetables, or pre-making healthy lunches or dinners. This way you can make enough to last a few days and have healthy meals ready to go when you’re short on time.

3. Learn Your Portions (It’s Fast and Easy!): Portion control is one of the best ways you can support your fitness goals. And when you combine meal prep with proper portions, you’ll soon get into a healthy habit of prepping meals at the recommended portion sizes.  A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with healthy protein, and a quarter with healthy carbs.

Quick tips on basic portion sizes: 

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4. Be Prepared with a List: Grocery lists can be a huge help when you’re shopping. Instead of wandering around picking up those unhealthy choices you’re used to, you’ll know exactly what to grab based on the meals you’re going to make for that week. To make things even easier, try to stick to the outer perimeter of the grocery store or stick to ordering some of your groceries online for delivery or pickup.

 5. One Full Meal, One Tray: If it’s the colder season (or you don’t mind turning the oven on, you can put an entire meal on one tray and then throw it in the oven.  This is a great way to make a healthy and filling meal without any fuss. Simply add your favorite protein, vegetables, and starch to a baking dish or tray then bake until everything is cooked through. Get creative and add different spices and sauces for variety.

6. Keep Healthy Foods Within Reach: Make healthy eating easy by keeping healthy snacks and meals within reach. If you have healthy foods visible and easily accessible, you’re more likely to reach for them instead of unhealthy options. With tempting foods, you can either place them in harder-to-reach places or get rid of them altogether. Out of sight, out of mind.

 7. Get Daily Recipes Sent to Your Email: One of the best ways to make healthy eating easier is to have healthy recipes sent right to your inbox. This way, you’ll always have new ideas for healthy meals, and you won’t get bored with the same old options.  To make things even easier, look for recipes that use similar ingredients so you can meal prep in advance. This way you can cook once and eat healthy all week long.

Reframe how you view cooking at home and get creative with it! It doesn’t have to be boring or overwhelming.  Start slow and simple and go from there. 

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