According to the most recent US News report that I could find, 86% of American workers sit all day for their job, I assume almost all of them sit at a desk or some sort of work station. I also assume that most people have heard of the health risks associated with prolonged sitting (it’s the new smoking), but there is another rick involved with being in an office environment 40 or more hours a week – bad eating habits.
Most office buildings have a vending machine or two full of chips, crackers, candy bars and soda. The calories we consume are far more than the energy we expend sitting all day, thereby making us pile on the unwanted pounds.
In this office environment, it is critical to find foods and drinks that keep us hydrated, but that are good for you and easy on the stomach. How is this possible when there are so many bad foods all around us? I’m going to try and help you navigate eating healthily during office hours.
Rule 1. Cut the Junk
Junk food options like candy and chips are the ones that are stocked by most offices for their employees. Not to mention the constant barrage of treats and goodies that employees and vendors/reps bring in (as a Sales Engineer, I’m guilty of this as well). While completely eliminating these may not be the solution, it is a good idea to keep a check on the amount you take in and how often. Daily snacking on junk is the unhealthiest habit possible, so be mindful of it.
Rule 2. Pack Home-Cooked Meals
This is the fool-proof way to make sure you cut down on junk. Taking home-cooked food to your office makes sure the food is healthy and fresh. And it's likely that the food cooked at home best satisfies your taste buds. You can customize it according to your own tastes and preferences. We have left-overs from dinner most nights, so packing up a lunch-sized or snack-sized portion to eat at work is usually pretty easy to do. This assures me of making a good choice and also limits portion size.
Rule 3. Stay Hydrated
The importance of drinking water at work cannot be overstated. A water bottle (Stainless Steel or Glass) at your desk is an absolute must. Make sure you drink enough with each meal, and keep drinking through the day as well. Water will help you stay energized and fresh throughout the day. In the summer time, the air-conditioning will remove the moisture from the air, dehydrating your skin. So it’s important to stay hydrated year-round.
Rule 4. Avoid Liquid Junk Food
Some people are able to completely avoid eating junk, but will pour junk down their throat all day. It’s equally important to avoid drinking caffeinated drinks, sodas, energy drinks, packaged juices and lattes. These drinks contain heavy amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, which kills your diet and makes you crave sweets even more. Don’t even get me started on “Diet” or “Zero” labeled drinks. They are often worse than their regular counter parts. If you want something other than plain water, go for for coffee with a little cream, green tea or sparkling water as a viable alternatives.
Rule 5. Keep Snacks at Your Desk
Stock your desk with plenty of healthy snacks. This will be an added incentive to eat well, and will prohibit you from reaching out to the vending machine or box of donuts every time. Raw nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and veggies, no-sugar added yogurt, dark chocolate, hummus, cheese and grain-free crackers are good options.
Rule 6. Limit Cravings
Controlling your food cravings is critical to eating healthy in the workplace. I’ve found that if there is nothing available to satisfy your craving, you will end up relying on sugary foods that are convenient. You can often get past cravings by drinking water or going to one of the healthy snack options listed in Step 5.
Rule 7. Check Portion Sizes
It is always a good idea to snack and satisfy your hunger rather than intentionally deprive yourself of food. However, the key element here is not to go overboard with any snack you eat. Be it simple mixed nuts, dark chocolate or even vegetables and fruits, it is essential to control the portions you eat. Excess of anything can derail your efforts. While it’s much harder to eat too many baby carrots than it is to eat that whole bag of M&M’s, you can still overeat healthy food. So I recommend that you eat a few pieces or bites, put it away for 15-20 minutes and then see if you are still hungry for me.
Hopefully by following these rules, healthy eat during the workweek is not as difficult as it seems on the surface. It is simply a combination of switching to the right foods and a little bit of self-control. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,