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Working 9-5

Donia Hilal offers some expert tips to keep healthy and active while working from home

It is no surprise that the more time you spend sitting at your desk, the greater impact it can have on your health. If you’re normally an office-based worker, you may have spent the past few months sitting in front of a screen at home due to lockdown restrictions. A key area to focus on is your eating habits. If you catch yourself snacking a lot, it might be worth taking note of how much and how often certain foods are consumed. If you have been returning to the office, the change and uncertainty might have led to overconsumption. Here are some tips for a healthier desk diet.

Stay hydrated

The part of your brain that controls your hunger is the part that also controls your thirst. Whilst working, many people can confuse thirst for hunger. Keeping hydrated throughout the day can help control unnecessary eating. It is recommended to drink 2 litres a day, but there is no “one size fits all” for everyone. Dehydration at work can lead to poor productivity, reduced cognitive abilities and slower reaction times. A clear indication is your urine; the closer it is to clear or light yellow, the more hydrated you are likely to be. Ensure water is your main desk beverage and avoid any fizzy drinks and juices.

Hide temptation

Studies have shown that if treats such as biscuits are clearly visible then this can lead to greater consumption whilst working, as opposed to when they are kept out of sight. Keep temptation at bay by ensuring that sugary treats are out of your line of vision. Try to apply the 80/20 rule: most of the time make the best choices you can and keep a treat just that, a treat. You will see a large benefit in your concentration, energy levels and mood. If hunger is a distraction, try some high protein snacks such as hard-boiled eggs and edamame beans.


When it comes to lunch, it can be tempting to finish off with a sweet treat, but that can soon turn into an unhealthy routine. Instead of grabbing some chocolate, make fruit your friend. Make it your go-to snack by having three pieces of fruit on your desk and set yourself personal goals to finish each one by the end of the working day. Once your brain gets used to the routine and challenge, you are less likely to crave unhealthy treats.

Smart lunching

Healthy lunching when working is tricky to get right, especially if you are at home and you have a fridge filled with weekend leftovers. An ideal lunch will contain the right balance of protein, sugars, fat, fibre, carbohydrates and other nutrients. A meal which is filled with carbs, such as pasta, releases glucose quickly which gives you a burst of energy followed by a slump and a drain in motivation. A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed, the more happier and engaged they became. This is because they contain vital nutrients that encourage the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine which plays a major role in feelings of motivation and engagement. Ensure your lunch is balanced by preparing in advance and making batch meals at the start of the week.

Don’t eat at your desk

Multi-tasking your way through lunch might feel like a great way to get through your workload, but it can be bad for your health and productivity. There are many reasons why your lunch break should be taken away from your screen. One such reason is that according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating lunch whilst being distracted, for example, whilst watching television, makes you more likely to overeat. Lunchtime is key for giving your brain a break and refreshing your mind. Practise mindful eating by tasting and savouring each mouthful uninterrupted and you will feel much more satisfied and happier.

Donia Hilal is a nutritionist with

Exercise tips for homeworkers

Find a routine that suits you,” advises Jemma Thomas, a PT and founder of online fitness community Jemma’s Health Hub ( “Decide what time of the day you prefer to exercise and do it then. Don’t make exercise into a chore - instead do exercise that you actually enjoy, whether that’s an online workout, a game of tennis, a run outside or a trip to the gym. If you find exercise boring, then mix it up. While we’re working from home, every day can feel the same so changing your exercise routine will make a huge difference. Make the most of what you’ve got at home to make it into a home gym – so a staircase for step ups, a garden for star jumps and cans for weights – get creative.”

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