Teaching is a tough job! Between meetings, back to back class periods, grading papers, and more, it's not uncommon for teachers to reach for whatever is in the vending machine or even skip eating altogether! This can sap your energy during the day and also lead to binging on unhealthy foods once you get home. Here are some tips from Tammy Baranowski, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Orange Park Medical Center to help ensure you get through the week energized, nourished, and in-line with your healthy eating goals.
MS, RDN, LD/N
- Yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Even though teachers have an early wake up call, skipping breakfast is never a good idea. The first meal of the day “breaks” our “fast” from sleeping the night before and gives us the energy we need to tackle the day. Whether you sip on a satisfying smoothie, make overnight oats the night before to enjoy at your desk, or simply put together a homemade “protein box” a la Starbucks but for half the cost, breakfast is a must.
- Put in the planning time: Teachers are time management experts, but often leave no time for their own well-being. Eating healthfully throughout the week can be best achieved through weekend mealprep, or whatever weekly meal planning time slot that works for you.
- Chop and portion fresh fruit and veggies such as carrot sticks, berries, cucumber slices, or even a simple apple, orange, or banana
- Prep portable protein; think yogurt, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, and hummus
- Prepare individual ingredients in bulk to mix and match quickly when packing your lunches such as pre-cooked whole grain pasta or quinoa, steamed veggies, marinated beans, and other toppings so you don’t have to eat the same meal day after day.
- Love your leftovers: Always cook a few extra servings at dinner time so you can enjoy again the next day. This works especially well with healthy casseroles, stews, soups, or stir-frys.
- Use your tools: Whether keeping a spoon, bowl, and can opener in your desk for a meal on the fly or using your slow cooker or Instapot at home on the weekend to meal prep, having the food preparation tools you need both in the classroom and at home help prevent succumbing to the temptation of cupcakes in the teachers’ lounge.
- Stock up on snacks: Keeping non-perishable healthy snacks in your desk or locker, such as raw unsalted nuts and seeds (walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, etc), healthy trail mix or granola bars with minimal added sugar (Larabars are great), a back-up can of low sodium soup, or rice cakes for those days when you truly only have ten minutes to eat before the next class. Taking that ten minutes to enjoy your snack or meal won’t only keep your blood glucose stable and brain firing on all cylinders, it will help prevent feeling “hangry” and then overeating later in the day.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Talking all day long can really leave you parched, and that can be mistaken for hunger as well as really be a drain on your energy levels. The trick here is to avoid sugar sweetened beverages and to stick with water (infuse with strawberry and basil or cucumber, lime, or mint for a flavor boost).
- Pair up with a partner: Teachers are now seeing the benefit of pairing up in groups or with a partner for food prep. This can mean bringing a homemade lunch for the group once or twice a week, while enjoying what they’ve prepared on other days. Not only will you expand your culinary palate, but save a ton of time preparing your meals during the week!