Eating Habits to Avoid If You Sit All Day, Say Dietitians

Nathan Law

Whether you’re sitting on your bum in an office, in a classroom, or even at your desk at home, working all day in a chair has become a common practice for society. And while this has become the norm in workplaces, health experts continually say that sitting and living a […]

Whether you’re sitting on your bum in an office, in a classroom, or even at your desk at home, working all day in a chair has become a common practice for society. And while this has become the norm in workplaces, health experts continually say that sitting and living a sedentary lifestyle can affect your body in many negative ways including weak leg muscles, weight gain, and even higher risk of developing chronic diseases, according to Harvard Health. Plus, sitting all day can induce some unhealthy eating habits that increase your body’s risk of weight gain and disease, if you’re not careful. That’s why we consulted a few registered dietitians to help us identify and combat these unhealthy habits if you sit all day.

Here are some of the habits you need to avoid if you find yourself sitting at a desk a majority of your day, and if you’re looking for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

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“It’s easy to just keep working through lunch when trying to meet a work deadline,” says Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, clinical dietitian and author of The Nourished Brain. “But this only likely will result in overeating through the evening, tipping weight gain. Instead, plan and schedule meals, including snacks. Take an hour or two on a weekend to choose a few healthy recipes or load up on plenty of fruits and veggies, lean meat, and whole grains to quickly put a nourishing meal together.”

RELATED: 14 Healthy Snacks That Will Actually Make You Feel Full

Young woman is using laptop and listening to music.
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“One too many sugary sodas or energy drinks may keep you from nodding off but at a price of weight gain along with an increased risk of chronic diseases,” says Mussatto. “Instead, get yourself a reusable water bottle and keep it on your desk or by your side. Or try herbal teas for a refreshing change of pace. Drinking water or unsweetened herbal teas will keep you fuller and less tempted to snack on empty calories.”

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“Overloaded with sugar, fat, and other not-so-healthy substances, these types of snacks are no friend to your health,” says Mussatto. “I recommend keeping a stash of nuts handy, low-sodium jerky, dried fruit, or trail mix. Any of these affordable and convenient snack ideas are good sources of fiber, protein, and important vitamins and minerals giving you a mini-health boost during the day.”

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“Sitting all day often leads to mindless eating or ‘grazing,'” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. “A handful of nuts here, some pretzels there, bite-size candy mid-afternoon, and the list goes on. Before you know it, you have consumed hundreds of hundreds of calories without knowing it. Over time, the increase in calories and decrease in movement can lead to weight gain.”

Goodson says the solution to mindless grazing is to “plan nutrient-rich snacks that contain fiber and protein.” Like one of these 25 Best High-Fiber Snacks to Buy That Keep You Full.

Eating pizza and social networking with a laptop.
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Along the same lines as mindless snacking, stress eating can be another easy habit to fall into if your work has become stressful during the day. Rachel Paul, PhD, RD from CollegeNutritionist.com, also recommends having “a planned snack or snacks in the afternoon (or morning if you need one)” in order to avoid stress eating, and other mindless snacking.

Some of the snacks Paul recommends include an apple with 1 or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1/4 or 1/3 cup of nuts, or 2 string cheeses with a hard-boiled egg.

overweight woman stressed with work
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“Having your kitchen next to your workspace can create a lot of urge,” says Shannon Henry, RD with EZCare Clinic. “Therefore, arrange your desk away from the kitchen—even on the second floor of the house if possible. Doing so can help you avoid going to the kitchen in the middle of a telephone call or between projects for quick bites.”

young woman looking at phone and eating fries
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As Lisa Young, PhD, RD, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, and a new member of our medical expert board, says, “avoid eating ‘al desko’.”

“People who eat while sitting at their desks and working may eat up to 50% more,” says Young. “They are often distracted and not eating mindfully. I suggest that when you want to grab a snack or eat a meal, get up, walk around the house, and eat it in the kitchen.”

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If you find yourself hungry for a snack in the afternoon, the best thing you can do is make sure that you are properly portioning out your snacks to prevent overeating, according to Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN at A Taste of Health, LLC and expert at Testing.com.

“Have pre-portioned snacks available at your desk and set snack times to avoid day-long grazing,” says Hotz.

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“Ensure that you keep water available at your desk, even if you need to infuse it or add lemon to provide some flavor and allow you to have something to sip on throughout the day to feel your best, stay hydrated, and avoid those sugary sodas and energy drinks,” says Hotz.

Here’s How to Make Sure You’re Drinking Enough Water.

woman in furry sweater reaching into clear glass bowl to grab potato chip while laptop sits in background
Shutterstock / Olha Pylypenko

“Sitting most of the day, whether at work or home, and snacking on calorie-dense foods is a recipe for health concerns,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD from Balance One Supplements. “Calorie dense foods are those that offer little in the way of beneficial nutrients like vitamins and minerals but contain a large number of calories, typically from refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates, like those found in pastries and convenience foods, are harmful to our health in a host of ways. They are highly inflammatory and can lead to poor gut health quickly. The combination of these two factors is a recipe for an increase in susceptibility to chronic and acute conditions.”

“Not taking breaks is another problem while sitting and working from home,” says Young. “I advise setting regular breaks and being sure to structure in some time for daily exercise as well as walking breaks. Set your alarm if you need a reminder. Often, you feel the need to eat calorie-dense junk food for an energy boost as you think you have low energy. Really, your low energy may be coming from the fact that you’ve been sitting all day, so get moving.”

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