7 Ways to Have a Healthier Commute
The average American spends about 26 minutes commuting to work. All that driving (or busing or training) leaves plenty of opportunity to foster some unhealthy habits. But by reframing your mindset and planning ahead, you can optimize your time on the road and have a more healthy, productive start and end to your workday. Read on for our top tips for a healthier commute.
1. Bring a Healthy Breakfast
While it may come as no surprise, a recent study found that a greater number of fast food restaurants available along commute routes was associated with significantly higher body mass index (BMI). Rather than fall into the fast food convenience trap, you can pack a healthy, portable breakfast to enjoy on-the-go.
“Eating [healthfully] in the car when you’re hungry is a great way to multitask,” says Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, senior bariatric dietitian for Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. “I like to eat breakfast while I drive to shorten my morning routine,” she says. As an added bonus, Majumdar says eating breakfast on the road (instead of skipping it entirely) can prevent temptation for break room treats once you get to the office.
Rather than fight gravity with a sloshing bowl of cereal while simultaneously operating a motor vehicle, you can sip a smoothie or stick to finger foods like hard-boiled eggs and fruit slices. You could also whip up an egg sandwich on whole-grain bread or pita and wrap it in foil to hold everything together while you eat.
2. Pack Healthy Snacks
Don’t forget about your drive home! Work can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to have a healthy snack on hand to enjoy during your evening commute in case you have to stay late at the office. “By packing a balanced snack for a drive, we can also minimize the chance for an impulse eat when we get home,” Majumdar says.
Try your best to plan out your snacks at least a day in advance. “Don’t rely on the morning to get your act together because something invariably comes up and we grab something quick and maybe not so balanced — or nothing at all,” Majumdar says.
Her go-to commuting snack combo: a fruit or veggie plus a small amount of protein — cheese and an apple, or carrots and nuts, or a banana and peanut butter, for example.
3. Fill Up a Reusable Water Bottle
Your morning commute is a great time to start hydrating for the day. “Remember, we wake up dehydrated after a night of not drinking,” Majumdar says. And after a long work day, a full bottle of cold water can help you stay energized on your drive home.
One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and the earth is to invest in a reusable water bottle. Glass and stainless steel are two of the most earth-friendly options. If you go with glass, make sure the bottle does not contain lead or cadmium. And if you choose stainless steel, make sure it is labeled food-grade and lead-free.
4. Brew Your Own Coffee
Making coffee at home not only saves you money, but can also reduce the temptation to pick up a fancy, high-calorie caffeinated concoction on the way to work. At home, you can choose high-quality add-ins like organic, grass-fed, or plant-based milk with no added sugar, and be in control of how much you pour in. Invest in a stainless-steel thermos to keep your coffee hot and remember that the time it takes you to brew coffee in the morning is likely less than the amount you’d spend sitting in a line at the drive-through.
5. Check Traffic
You don’t need us to tell you that sitting in bumper to bumper traffic is stressful. Before you head out the door — either at home or the office — check a navigation app like Google Maps, HERE WeGo, or Waze. These tools will provide you with up-to-date traffic and accident reports and suggest alternate routes so you can get where you need to go in less time and with less stress.
6. Listen to a Podcast or Audiobook
Keep your mind busy and stay alert during your commute with your favorite podcast or audiobook. You can listen to an inspirational podcast (Inspire Nation, Changeability, Good Life Project), a podcast about health and fitness (The Dumbbells, Food Heaven, The BodyLove Project), or something that’s just entertaining and will put you in a great mood.
7. Use Your Legs
A 2014 study suggests that commuters who walk or bike to work are generally happier than their driving counterparts. These active forms of transportation can offer more control to the commuter (though weather can put a damper on things) and allow them to sneak in some fresh air and exercise. While not everyone can realistically bike or walk to work on the regular, you can build a little more activity into your commute by parking farther away or getting off a few stops early if you take the train or bus.