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Beat the return-to-the-office stress with your lunchbox

Fitness and nutrition · Sep 10, 2021

After more than a year of working remotely, many employees are being called back into the workplace this fall. It’s logical to feel anxious about it. The pandemic has caused so much personal and economic hardship, and we’re still not at the end of the tunnel. On top of that, we have no idea what our jobs or workplace will look like when we return.

Food can be a helpful stress management tool. Certain nutrients play a role in calming the emotions, boosting energy levels, and focusing concentration.

Here are some practical, tasty, and beneficial things to include in your lunchbox to ease the return-to-work stress.

Nuts and seeds

Not only are they a quick and easy source of protein, nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium, a valuable mineral that has shown to help with reducing anxiety as well as improving brain function. They’re also good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is also believed to help with treating anxiety. Keep some nuts at your desk for a filling, satisfying snack if you’re feeling hungry between meals.


Turkey meat contains an amino acid tryptophan which the body uses to make serotonin, which helps to regulate appetite, sleep, and mood. Serotonin is also linked to improved brain function and relief of anxiety. Put together a yummy turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread or fill up your thermos with some tasty turkey soup.


Turmeric is a spice commonly used in South-East Asian cooking. It’s what gives curry its yellow color. Its active ingredient curcumin is believed to have many health benefits including helping to lower anxiety. Similar in appearance to ginger, you can get turmeric in either whole or powdered form. Try adding it to a chicken salad sandwich, a rice or quinoa salad, or even in a smoothie.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile is a flower in the daisy family. It’s used to help treat a variety of ailments, including sleep problems, digestive upset, and wound healing. It’s also a powerful remedy for calming the emotions. One clinical study suggested that chamomile tea was helpful in treating comorbid depression and anxiety. When you feel the need for a hot beverage, consider a nice cup of calming chamomile tea over that java pick me up.

Leafy greens

Dark leafy green vegetables like romaine lettuce, Swiss chard and kale are loaded with magnesium. A romaine lettuce salad at lunch or kale chips as a snack can help support adequate nourishment to help you feel energized and calm throughout the day.

Dark chocolate

Not only is dark chocolate a yummy treat, it’s another source of magnesium and tryptophan. But it does contain sugars and fats so it’s best to limit your serving to one to three grams and choose 70% or more pure dark chocolate.


Salmon is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which are associated with good cognitive function and mental health. Consider a salmon salad, salmon macaroni salad, or mix it with cream cheese (or avocado), dill, and a dash of lemon juice for a delicious sandwich spread.

While no one food or nutrient will decrease or manage your stress, incorporating good eating habits into your lifestyle is one of many stress management strategies we can use to help with the transition back to the workplace.