When you’re in fast-paced environments like manufacturing plants, getting your lunch from the vending machine can be pretty common. But did you know that healthy eating has been shown to not only help reduce your risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, but also protect against certain types of cancers, according to the USDA? It’s important for warehouse workers who have physical jobs to eat well, and Randstad has four tips to help you eat healthier and feel your best in 2018.

breakfast of champions.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day — it kicks your metabolism into gear, which then helps you burn calories throughout the rest of the day. And replenishing your blood sugar levels in the morning when they’re low, besides being energizing, can also make you less likely to overeat later on. Of course, breakfast is also a time when you’re likely to be in a hurry. Try these three suggestions for a smart start to your day:

  • Cereal is ridiculously simple: combine it with milk in a bowl. But to eat healthier, you might try switching to a cereal that has whole grains — you’ll see the word “whole” at the beginning of the ingredients list (like whole oats, whole wheat flour, whole grain corn) — and at least three grams of fiber per serving. Then, pair it with low-fat or fat-free milk, and why not score some extra fiber by adding in fresh fruit? 
  • The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a deliciously simple and nutritious way to start the day. Just spread your favorite peanut butter and jam on two separate slices of whole grain bread. Then combine. You’re good to go! 
  • Mix yogurt with granola, toss in some grapes and you practically have a gourmet meal on your hands. Most grocery stores today will offer several varieties of granola, and some even let you create your own. Just keep an eye out for added sugars in the ingredients.

Plan ahead and you’ll be able to avoid the fast food routine, which has been shown to increase your risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If, for some reason, there just isn’t any alternative to McDonald’s, at least reach for an Egg McMuffin — at 300 calories, 17 grams of protein and 12 grams of fat, it’s the healthiest item on the breakfast menu.

think logistics.

Since you’ll be packing your lunch every day, make sure you have Tupperware or another container to safely transport it in. And even if you’re not someone who ordinarily cooks, don’t worry. There’s no need to be a trained chef with these three easy approaches:

  • Pre-portion sandwich bags with fruits and nuts for easy access. Raisins, for instance, are rich in B vitamins, iron and potassium, while almonds are a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin E. How much should you eat? Two cups of fruit and one ounce of nuts are the recommended daily servings for most adults. Check out this convenient chart from the USDA to see what one cup of fruit looks like for different fruits. For nuts, a handy rule of thumb is that one ounce roughly equals one handful. 
  • Buy ready-to-go sides like bananas, yogurts, diced fruits or apple sauce. You should be aware that some apple sauces contain additional sugar, however, so you’ll need to read the label before you check out. 
  •  Focus on creating ready-to-eat meals. Hard-boiled eggs could not be easier to prepare and they pack a nutritional wallop — 6.3 grams of protein, 5.3 grams of fat and only 78 calories in a single egg. Even better, hard-boiled eggs last up to a week in the refrigerator, so you can have a mainstay of your lunches for the whole week ready after a single session at the stove. Tuna salad is another healthy favorite. The simplest recipe is to combine one can of tuna fish with the low-fat creamy salad dressing of your choice, mix in a tablespoon of your favorite sweet pickle relish and — voila! — you’re ready to eat. Enjoy alone or spread it on bread. 

Healthy eating takes work and planning, but the rewards can be life-changing.

hydrate right.

Hard work makes you sweat, so you obviously need to stay hydrated. This is especially important in work environments that are warm — and some manufacturing plants are downright hot. Fortunately, sports drinks containing added electrolytes can help you stay hydrated. Electrolytes are minerals like sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium that you lose when you sweat. Sports drinks can help you restore your body’s electrolyte balance — especially sodium and potassium. But you should be aware that some of these sports drinks carry sugar in spades. A single 12-ounce Gatorade Thirst Quencher, for instance, has 56 grams of sugar.

avoid added sugars.

Slick marketers have found many ways of covering up the many unhealthy ingredients in everyday foods. Added sugars — sugars and syrups that are mixed into foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared — are an especially unhealthy example. To avoid these stealth sugars, you’ll need to carefully read the packages. Watch out for any of these ingredients:

  • anhydrous dextrose 
  • confectioners’ powdered sugar 
  • corn syrup/corn syrup solids 
  •  dextrose fructose 
  • high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) 
  • maltose 
  • nectars (for example, peach or pear nectar) 
  • sucrose 

Improving your diet can start with just small changes that have a huge impact down the road. If you want to really take your health to the next level, try combining these smart suggestions for healthy eating with an innovative warehouse workout — without even going to the gym. And if your plans for a better 2018 include finding a new role or career, learn how partnering with Randstad can help.