Healthy Eating When You Work Long Hours

Dear Kate, 

I currently work very long hours at my job. I normally leave for work at 7:00 and with long hours, snow, and traffic I sometimes don’t get home till 8:30 or 9:00 at night. By this time I’m not really hungry anymore, but I still want to workout (and I know I need to eat) so I eat a Cliff bar and drink a glass of green juice and then head to the gym. Is that okay? Are there healthier options? I drink a green smoothie for breakfast a lot and otherwise eat a pretty balanced diet. I just really don’t want to take the time to stop and make something when I am just heading right out the door to workout. 


Hello beautiful! First off, it is awesome that after that kind of day you still have the energy to go to the gym! Hat’s off!  You can take a second and pat yourself on the back…go ahead…we’ll wait.

Healthy Eating When You Work Long Hours

Now, the first thing I’d suggest is packing two meals to take with you to work. So if you are already packing lunch (or if you eat it out) then pack along a dinner to eat as well at 6 or so when you get hungry. This will help keep your body’s natural hunger regulated, instead of pushing it into a fasting state.

You can just take a short break to heat up your food and eat at your desk or take a 15 minute break and enjoy your meal in the break room. Studies show that employees who take short breaks are actually more productive in their days! (Also, if smokers can take a break to do something destructive to their bodies, I’m sure you can take a break to do something healthy for your body! Okay, climbing off the soapbox now.)

If you don’t feel like packing all the stuff with you each day, see if you can bring in a bulk amount (assuming you have an office fridge) that will last you a few days, like a container of leftover chili or even frozen waffes.

Another tip is to be sure to stock your work area with healthy snacks. Bring in your favorite box of energy bars or a bag of almonds or pretzels or cheese sticks or apples to keep at hand so if you do happen to find yourself without a dinner, you still have things to snack on!

Eat a snack at your desk

Ready to eat options:

I don’t think there is anything “bad” neceassarily about the dinner you are choosing to eat, but here are some other ready to eat options for when you are busy.

Cliff bars–or whatever bar you prefer that is between 200-300 calories

Bolthouse Farms Protein Smoothie–I love that this has protein and is mixed and ready to go!

Shakealogy, Advocare, or other Meal Replacement Shake–easy and quick options that come in a variety of flavors.

Frozen waffles (whole grain or GF version)–YUM! Spread with peanut butter and banana.

Frozen meals–Here’s a list of ones approved by a nutritionist.

Whole Food Prep Ahead:

Prep these on the weekend to pack for a second meal at work or to eat at home in a hurry. This one time I had a baby and I was soo hungry but way to tired to make food. I would cook chicken in the crock pot, shred it and then eat it for the next few days while standing at my fridge, just fork to tupperware baby!

Soup–Make your own ahead of time or buy premade of healthy soups! (I’ve got  great chili, potato soup and tomato soup recipes! Not to toot my own horn or anything….)


Chicken breasts sandwich–grill up 3-4 chicken breasts on the weekend with your favorite spices and eat as a sandwich between a whole wheat bun or english muffin. This option gives you a quick filling dinner that is basically ready to go when you get home or with minimal prep at work.

Make ahead frozen burrito–Cook ground turkey until completely brown. Add taco seasoning (I make at home) and 1/3 cup of water and simmer until water is mostly dissolved. In taco shell layer black beans, ground turkey, corn, and a sprinkle of cheese. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then wrap again in foil. In the morning place taco in the fridge and when ready to eat remove tin foil wrap and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Top with your favorite variety of salsa (I looove salsa verde!).

Make ahead Chipotle Bowl–Cook brown rice, salsa crockpot chicken, and black beans ahead of time. Create a burrito bowl by layering all with your favorite toppings like guacamole, cheese, sour cream, green pepper, and salsa.

Salad –-Layered in the mason jar ahead of time does all the heavy lifting, but really it doesn’t take long to throw a salad together; top with grilled chicken or deli meat for added protein.

Healthy salad

Overall it sounds like you are doing your best to make your healthy eating work in a tough situation. Take time for self-care when you can….paint your nails, read a book, take a long shower, whatever helps you relax.

Also, if in this season of super-busy work you need to cut down on your workouts to keep yourself sane or to rest, do it. I understand though too, if the gym is the only thing keeping you sane in this stressful time! Just be aware and listen to your body.

Best of luck and thanks for reading!


Do you have any advice for someone who works long hours and is trying to stay healthy? 

I’d love to answer any question you have too! I don’t have all the answers, but I’d love to try to help you find them!

Linking up to #PinterestThursday with Tara!

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  1. Thanks for all the great tips, Kate. I try to keep my desk stocked with healthy snack options. I get up at 4:30 am, eat lunch at 10:20 (I’m a teacher), and by the time school ends at 2:05 I’m usually starving and ready for a snack. Healthy snacks definitely help to hold me over so that I can eat dinner at a normal person’s hour with my husband.

    1. Oh man! That is a tough schedule!Teachers are incredible and way to go for always keeping the good stuff close by–that’s always been huge for me!

  2. I love how simple your advice is! It makes bringing healthy food to work seem less intimidating. My favorite quick snacks are small portions of nuts, fruit, veggies, and occasionally a piece of chocolate. Is that bad? 😀

    1. Uh, no! A piece of dark chocolate is perfect, especially for when you are craving something sweet and just NEED CHOCOLATE! haha!

  3. Great tips, Kate! It’s always hard to keep it healthy when your day is packed, but you seem to have a good grasp on the concept of planning ahead to ensure quality meals! Thanks for sharing these tips…and for linking up!

    1. Thanks Tara! I really think that planning ahead is truly key for most people to overcome their healthy living challenges. 🙂

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