You’re committed to cleaning up your diet and losing weight, vowing to choose nourishing, whole foods over empty calories laden with unhealthy fats and sugar. But what about that eight-hour chunk of the day spent at the office? It can be like working in Willy Wonka’s factory, with candy, doughnuts and “bad” food someone brings in from home so they don’t eat it, dotting desks and tables at every turn.
Work-related weight gain is real. A 2018 study found that foods people get at work tend to be high in sugar and salt and low in whole grains. In the study, most of the food was free — bagels, birthday cake, candy and leftovers in the breakroom — and gifted the eaters with an average of an additional 1,300 calories per week. It doesn’t take long for those kinds of calories to add up to extra pounds.
“It’s easy to consume that number of calories,” says Susie Schneider, RD, LD, a dietitian with OhioHealth’s McConnell Heart Health Center. “Someone could get that with just a half a bagel and cream cheese.”
Schneider knows it’s hard to say no. “People feel like they have to take advantage of free food — when opportunity knocks, you want to answer.”
But she shares strategies that can help you say yes to another opportunity — choosing healthy foods instead to fuel yourself and your health in a good way.
1. Pack healthy snacks
Don’t count on that healthy lunch you packed to get you past the birthday cake when 3 o’clock hits and you want a “little something.” Make that “little something” a healthy snack you planned ahead and brought, like a piece of fruit, veggies and hummus, or nuts.
2. Make a Move
The taunts of chocolate kisses front and center on your coworker’s desk or at the reception area are hard to ignore if you have to cross paths regularly throughout the day. Out of sight really can help keep it out of mind, so don’t be afraid to ask your coworker to move it (others in the office will probably thank you).
3. Contribute the kind of food you want to eat
When it’s time for the monthly birthday potluck, go rogue. Bring in a healthy option instead of the standard gooey brownie or the mac-n-cheese your grandma is famous for. You’ll have the ammo you need to make good choices, and it’s likely your fresh, green salad or colorful tray of veggies will be the first to go.
4. Stay hydrated
It’s an oldie but a goodie because it works. Staying hydrated fills you up and helps keep you from grazing. But only if you stay away from sugary soft drinks, sports drinks and juices, as well as coffee loaded with cream, sugar or drink toppings that make it more a dessert. Stick with no- or low-calorie options, such as plain or seltzer water, or unsweetened iced tea.
5. Ask for the good stuff
No one wants to seem ungrateful for the Friday doughnut/bagel buffet or a vending machine fully stocked with an assortment of candy and chips, but sometimes eating better is as easy as asking for better choices. Why not take the lead? It’s likely you’re not alone, and the more people who ask for fruit and whole-grain options, for instance, the better the chance of it changing. Because let’s face it — healthier employees make for more productive employees.
Need more healthy eating guidance? Check out more tips to up your nutrition game.