2018 Update: We still stand by this discussion of what to eat for long-haul days at the office — but you may also want to check out some of our more recent discussions, such as on the best energy foods to help you work all day, eating late at the office, or 40+ snack ideas for work!
We smiled when we got this reader mail because, well, it’s a subject near and dear to our hearts: what to eat for long-haul days at the office.
I would love to see a story on what everyone eats! Given that the topics of conversation frequently discuss clothing size, size of models, etc, I’d love to know what everyone eats. How do women have enough energy to make it through long days? Are people subsisting mostly off of coffee and redbull? Do people order in all the time or bring PBJ (like me!)? How much is typically spend on food a week? (I know that will vary greatly by location)
We’ve talked about it a bit here before, but it does seem like an evergreen topic. So here’s the question: What do you eat for the days when you know you need to make it through a super long day at the office? (Original image for this post (2010): Dinner @ Office, originally uploaded to Flickr by jetalone. Current image (salad + keyboard): Shutterstock / benedix.)
For this author, the answer depends upon small meals that keep energy levels high and blood sugar levels constant. For us, this translates to lots of fiber and protein. A typical long day might look like this:
- first breakfast (within an hour of waking up) – a few raw almonds, half a banana, and/or maybe a few prunes (with coffee, of course, which I usually drink black)
- second breakfast (after getting to the office after a workout) – yogurt mixed with a high-fiber cereal, maybe oatmeal, maybe hard-boiled eggs, maybe eggs over hard if I’m eating breakfast at home, or maybe an egg sandwich if I know I’ll be really busy that morning and unable to snack. Also, at some point I got into the habit of filling a stainless steel water container (like these Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottles from Amazon, available for $16 or so) with water the night before; I’d start drinking that when I arrived at the office (with the aim of finishing it by lunch, then refilling it and drinking a second one by the time I left that night). (I’d pour the water into a second cup so I didn’t have to wash the water bottle very often.)
- snack – apple or other fruit
- lunch – could be anything, but popular choices include: a Subway sandwich, a sandwich I brought from home, maybe a toasted bagel with cream cheese, a spinach salad with feta and cheese (or lately I’ve been liking spinach, shrimp, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, balsamic vinegar, and Saltines crumbled up in the salad — try it!) to some soup from the place downstairs with maybe half a piece of the whole-wheat bread. Oh — my afternoon caffeine hit is always Diet Coke with lunch — I’ll start drinking Bottle #2 once I’m done with that.
- afternoon snack – ranges pretty widely, from a decaf skim latte, to some oatmeal or other breakfast-type choices, to a 100 Calorie VitaTop, to some nuts, to candy or chips. (Regarding candy or chips as a snack — for me it seems to make me more hungry, more quickly, and so I try to only eat it if I know that I plan to order dinner fairly soon. But: hey, you know what they say about best laid plans…) Oh, and occasionally I’ll have a jar of peanut butter on hand and just eat a spoonful or so.
- dinner — here, it really depends how long a haul I think I’m in for, and who’s paying for the dinner (at my old job we were allowed to bill a client for dinner from Seamless Web if we stayed past 8:00 — at least up to a certain amount.) So if it was 6:00 and I thought I’d be working until midnight, I tended to order foods that didn’t have to be eaten all at once. For example, if possible, it’s great to eat fruit BEFORE you eat your dinner — it seems to give a burst of energy and, by the time your sugar levels spike and you’re starving, it’s time for the main meal. Or ordering soup (to eat first) and a half a sandwich (to eat in 2 hours). Other frequent dinner items at the office included things like omelets, grilled salmon or other fish, sushi, Chinese food (I like to order chicken or shrimp with broccoli, steamed, and black bean sauce on the side). Sometimes I’d order frozen yogurt and fruit for dinner, sometimes grilled, lean steak. I also liked cooked veggies like spinach, bok choy, green beans, broccoli, and whatever strikes me as interesting that day. If I hadn’t had a salad for lunch I’d often eat a salad for dinner.
- final snack: On the days I intended to be there until midnight and really needed to crunch, I’d mix a cup of regular and decaf coffee and drink that around 10:30 or 11 — because I’d do it only occasionally, the effect would be to spike my energy levels SUPER high, and then I’d completely crash about an hour and a half later– just in time for bed. (My personal rule was that I tried not to work past midnight unless I really had to — I found my work product was better, and my energy levels the next day better, if I left at midnight and got up at 4:00 or so the next morning to finish whatever it was.) If I was hungry again I would maybe eat the same kind of snack I would have in the afternoon, also.
So that would be my “long haul” day — oh, and I’d estimate the cost to me would be less than $10 for everything so long as the dinner could be billed to the client. What does your long-haul day look like, readers? What do you do if you CAN’T bill a portion of the day to your client?