A Guide to Healthy “DESK DINING”
We all recognize the challenges of being at a desk for the majority of the day. The following guidelines will help you to better manage these lifestyle challenges of office eating so that you can sustain your energy levels, work smarter and get more out of your day.
Vending Machines, Cafeterias and Convenience Stands
Most of the foods on offer are high in saturated and total fat, sodium and/or sugar, and virtually devoid of fiber and vitamins. Eating these foods on a regular basis may result in erratic blood sugar levels, leaving you with low energy, irritability, poor concentration, weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks and stroke, gout, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.
What to do:
- Before grabbing a snack, consider whether you rather need a break from what you’re doing. Going for a short walk or getting a breath of fresh air may be all you need to feel re-energized.
- Drink a glass of water as you may simply be dehydrated. Thirst is commonly mistaken for hunger. We’re not drinking enough water as it is. When you drink water throughout the day, you will find yourself more energized, focused and better able to sleep at the end of the day. Really! Get that water bottle on your desk!
- Do not allow yourself to skip meals. Hungry people tend to make unhealthy food choices, particularly if tempting snacks are readily available. Tip: Boil a dozen eggs on Sunday so you can have a gab & go breakfast or snack during the week.
- Pack your snacks and lunches. My insulated lunch bag has saved me on many occasions! You can easily prep fresh veggies & hummus, fruit and nuts for a quick snack at your desk or to take with you as you walk around the building for a change of scenery. Get the crock pot out and make a hearty roast, chili or even breakfast bake to get you through the week. Some planning and prep is all it takes to get on track with healthy eating.
Although tea, coffee and cocoa contain beneficial flavonoids and other antioxidants, the caffeine content limits their benefit. Over-consumption of caffeine often goes hand in hand with over-consumption of sugar and refined unhealthy snacks such as muffins, cookies and snack bars. Excess caffeine intake may cause feelings of anxiety, increased blood pressure, insomnia and headaches. It can also be a digestive system irritant, causing heartburn, cramping or diarrhea in sensitive individuals.
What to do:
- Before having a cup of tea or coffee, go for a short walk or a breath of fresh air as it may be all you need.
- Limit yourself to 2-3 cups of java per day. Hot chocolate, soda and energy drinks should not be consumed on a regular basis, but rather as an occasional treat (if you must).
- Avoid artificial coffee and tea creamers, as they are high in saturated and trans fats, which increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and stroke. Instead use real, organic cream, almond milk or other dairy substitutes (made from whole foods).
- Skip the sugar. The total daily sugar intake for an adult should be less than 10% of total energy, which equates to 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women, and 12 teaspoons for men. Try stevia or monkfruit for some sweetness.
- With every cup of coffee or tea, drink a glass of water to quench your thirst.
- During cold and flu season (or anytime), try hot water with a slice of lemon, orange or fresh ginger in it. Herbal teas also count as water.
- Try green juice! This is my favorite way to get a delicious, healthy boost of energy. Don’t have a juice bar at work? Most of us don’t. There are many healthy, organic, dehydrated juices available that you can simply shake with water when you’re ready. They’re convenient, have a long shelf life and much more affordable than a daily juice from a juice bar. Here’s my favorite (25% discount applied at checkout).
if I had a dollar for every time I heard about the muffins and donuts at meetings… The challenge with meetings is that either unhealthy foods are provided or none at all. Foods on offer during meetings typically are highly refined and high in fat. This can limit productivity and creativity – how sharp do you feel after a muffin with 4 tablespoons of sugar? How do these foods affect your energy.. and waist line?
What to do:
- Be proactive and if possible, organize healthy food platters for meetings. Source various catering outlets that provide delicious smart snack platters.
- Suggested snack platter items to your usual caterer: veggies, hummus, berries, nuts, boiled eggs, grilled chicken strips, smoked salmon, etc. Yummy and very power suit-friendly!
- Keep your own healthy snacks on hand to consume during or between back-to-back meetings.
- Ensure that water is available in all meetings along with the tea and coffee.
- Have a smart snack before meetings and then a beverage during the meeting.
- If you have to eat from unhealthy food platters, fill a plate of food once, keeping in mind that half should be vegetables or fruit. This way, you end up eating a fairly balanced meal rather than too many high fat, high carbohydrate snacks if you nibble continuously.
- If there are four or fewer of you who need to have a meeting, consider going for a walk while addressing the issues at hand. This helps to reduce unhealthy snacking – and, bonus, it spurs creativity and let’s everyone know that workplace wellness it part of the company values.
I’ve had clients send me pictures of their break rooms at work. So S.A.D. (Standard American Diet)! It’s especially hard when you are starting a new eating plan or trying to detox from processed foods since cravings are at an all time high. If you must use a space, then you must change the space.
What to do:
- Avoid them if possible, otherwise use that tunnel vision, get your healthy, home made food from the fridge and eat your meal preferably with a healthy coworker to keep you on track
- Use a food tracker. Tracking your food gives you pause and forces you to take a moment to choose your food. there’s no mindless eating when you use a tracker. My favorite one is: My Fitness Pal. You’ll see if that muffin is worth it when you enter it into the app…
- Be proactive and request healthy options be stocked
- Be proactive and post colorful flyers in the break room with healthy tips and break activities like a walk, stretch session or breathing exercises to do before heading back to your work station.
- Be proactive and start a healthy break (or lunch) club! Put a sign up sheet int he break room. Each person in your group can bring in a healthy snack or lunch once per week. You can support each other in your healthy living and add in some physical activity during the work day with a step challenge or something similar.
This is a tricky one. Time zone changes on top of the usual work stresses really make this a tough challenge for my corporate clients. Whether you spend a lot of time in a car or hotels, or fly across time zones, travelling disrupts your usual eating routine and can play havoc with healthier food choices.
What to do:
- The biggest challenge with meals served on airplanes is the almost complete lack of vegetables and fresh fruit. Make sure you do eat all the salad and vegetables that are served, or ask for the vegetarian option.
- Should you wish to have a meal before boarding a plane, choose a salad-based meal with a small protein serving.
- Meal timing is the other challenge when travelling. A main meal should only be consumed four to five hours after the last main meal. Should you be served a meal one to two hours after a large meal, treat this meal as a snack, rather than consuming the whole meal.
- Fruit juices, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are strictly speaking too energy dense. Make water your beverage of choice. If you must imbibe, match every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
- Drinking enough water is very important, as long flights are particularly dehydrating. Have a glass of water every hour or so.
No matter if you’re travelling or desk-dining, the power is in your hands. Arm yourself with the information you need to make healthy choices. Talk to your coworkers and supervisors about adapting the environment to fit your health needs. Take responsibility and research some healthy recipes to make in bulk – always cook once, eat twice. Drink water throughout the day. If necessary, invest in healthy convenience foods to match your busy lifestyle – this is my favorite bundle (25% discount at check out). Get some fresh air.
Lastly, get an accountability partner! More often than not, you will have a coworker who is also in need of support to reset their diet and stay on track. Working towards your health goals with a buddy – especially one you see 5 days a week will significantly increase the likelihood that you will succeed in your endeavors. You’ll also form a strong bond and open up more possibilities to spread health and wellness office wide.