Thursday, November 12, 2009

Office Food: The Dangers and How to Avoid Making Bad Choices

On the road to healthy eating, my office is the huge pothole that gives you a flat tire. It's the detour that takes you through so many back roads, you end up lost. It's the dead skunk that you don't see until it's too late and the smell lingers for days. OK. Maybe that last one was too much. You get the point.

A few years ago, when I was a bartender, I used to blame any bad eating on the fact that I worked in a bar where food was constantly in my face, the long hours and the off schedule. I used to say that when I got a "9-5" type job, healthy eating would be so much better because I would have a set schedule. Well, not so much.

My office is full of bad foods ALL of the time. First, we order food for all sorts of meetings. Internal meetings. External meetings. Small meetings. Big meetings. Breakfast meetings bring trays of fatty pastries, bagels, muffins, scones, and even cinnamon buns. Lunches feature anything and everything like pasta salads, pizza, sandwiches, rolls...the list goes on and on. And, who could forget the cookies and brownies tray? A lot of the times, I'm not even in the meetings where this food is being served. However, for some reason tons and tons of leftovers appear magically in our kitchen, just sitting there, begging to be eaten.

If you can somehow survive the kitchen full of tempting foods, you still need to find a way to pass up the monthly staff birthday cake and the occasional treat or candy brought in by a colleague. Perhaps the worst at my workplace are the quarterly staff meetings we have (like we did today) where we hold our meeting off-site at a hotel and food is supplied every two hours. Today alone I was faced with bagels, scones, muffins, mini pumpkin pies, chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, cookies, brownies, bags of chips, bags of doritos, potato salad and rolls.

So, how in the world are we supposed to stay on the road to healthy eating without giving in to all of the many detours available everyday? Here are some tips and strategies that I use and that really work:

Bring your own food to work. This is the number one way I avoid eating crap at work. Pack breakfast (if you don't eat it before you go), lunch and snacks. If you have all of your food for the day planned out, you will be less likely to go looking for food and less likely to stray from your plan!

Keep some healthy snacks in your desk and choose them instead of the fatty ones! Be careful with this one...don't keep so much in your desk that you are tempted to over-indulge. Also make sure you aren't reaching for these snacks when you aren't actually hungry. This is your emergency supply. Good choices include healthy bars, almonds, etc.

Always have sugar-free gum handy. I hate when The Biggest Loser pretends that a nice piece of sugar-free gum is a good snack. It's not. C'mon now. If you're hungry, gum isn't really going to do the trick. However, often when we snack at work, we aren't eating because we're hungry. We're eating because the food is right there. If there's food around, pop a piece of gum. You'll have something in your mouth so you won't mindlessly grab something and eat it.

Ask yourself: If I eat this, will I regret it later? Chances are, you will. If you pass up that cookie, the world won't end. You don't NEED it. Cookies aren't going out of style. If the next day or week you really want a cookie, rest assured, you can find one.

Stay hydrated. Of course, you should be drinking lots and lots of water which keeps you healthy and feeling full. You can also enjoy a cup of tea or coffee to keep from grabbing food you don't really want.

So, stick to the tips above and don't be one of those people that storms the kitchen like a stampede to get your hands on a bagel that's been sitting out for hours. You don't need it! Let's all avoid the potholes, detours, and definitely the skunks, and get to our final goals!

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