January 22, 2019

What’s on Your Shelf? How Your Environment Influences Healthy Habits

environment influences healthy habitsBy Laura Tolle, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Most people have goals they are striving for – especially around this time of year. Health is often on the list of New Year’s resolution goals. I want to eat better or I want to lose weight and start exercising. We often try but find that over time, whether it be one month or even one week, it is hard to change behavior. I find when working with clients, we often forget about the environment around us, which usually stays the same while we are trying to change. Let’s take a look at some of our food environments that could stand a change themselves.

At Home

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where people eat, prepare meals, hang out and work. If you look around you may find snacks on the table, cereal boxes out from breakfast or dishes in the sink. How does it feel when you enter? Do you feel like preparing a meal? If you have dishes in the sink, do you really want to wash them before preparing your meal or would you rather call for a pizza? Creating an environment where you are able to prepare meals without a lot of cleanup inspires cooking more meals at home.

Try some of these ideas:

  1. Enlisting family members to help in the kitchen will help cut down on one person bearing the responsibility of doing it all.
  2. Clean as you go, and it won’t feel so cumbersome after the meal is finished.
  3. Wrap healthy leftovers in clear plastic wrap and have them available at eye level in the refrigerator. If there happens to be something less healthy, wrap it in tinfoil and put it below or above eye level.
  4. Prepare your lunch for the next day as you clean.

We usually eat the first three things that we see, so review your fridge and pantry, and place healthy foods where you can see them. Try putting a fruit bowl on the table to encourage five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. Simple changes to the environment around you can help you focus on what you are striving for rather than hindering your progress.

At Work

Work environments can be redesigned to promote healthy choices and limit unhealthy ones. What do you see when you enter your workspace? Do you see food, clutter or an endless to-do list? Do you enter the lounge or lunch area and see treats on the table? Your workspace should be set up for your success. You eat what you see!

Consider some of these practices:

  1. Place a glass of water at your desk. Hydration is important and something that is usually forgotten when we are busy.
  2. Put a piece of fruit out so you can eat when you feel hungry.
  3. Consider keeping unhealthy treats in opaque jars or in the fridge. If you don’t see them or know they are there, they won’t draw you in when you are tired or lack the energy you need to make a healthy choice.
  4. Keep treats at home. Consider those around you when you think about bringing in food from home for your co-workers. Often people you are working with are striving to keep the same health goals you are.
  5. Offer water and fresh fruit at meetings. Work is often a place of stress, and stress may lead to stress eating or making unhealthy choices.

So when you are creating your goals, remember it is important to pay attention to the environment around you both at work and at home. Your success depends on it!


Laura Tolle is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified specialist in obesity and weight management with Mission’s MyHealthyLife™ Wellness Services. She supports the Healthy and Whole program and nutrition coaching for Mission team members, Healthy State clients and the western North Carolina community.