On Monday, someone in your office "sweetly" brings in cookies. The next day it's doughnuts. Then there's the cake and ice cream for someone’s birthday, not to mention that jar permanently filled with chocolate candies in the middle of the office...
When there's all of that enticing yet addictive processed food lying around, it’s a miracle anyone can manage to fit fruits and vegetables into their daily diet. This is what could be called a "toxic food environment." It may sound like an overly cautionary description for a snack-filled workplace, but if the unhealthy food around your office keeps throwing off your diet, it's unlikely you will succeed in maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
We hear over and over how processed foods and the lack of a low-fat, healthy diet can cause heart disease, the number one leading cause of death among Americans. While we can control what we purchase and bring into our homes, it’s a lot harder at work. However, having a healthy environment in the workplace is just as important, if not more, because it’s where we typically spend most of our waking hours.
The next time hunger pangs hit, wouldn't it be so much better if there were a lovely bowl of clementines or apples waiting in the break room instead of chips and salsa? But it's hard to pass on the salty, fatty foods in the midst of a stressful work day. (Especially when the salsa jar and chips are already opened, just begging to be dug into...)
Of course, we aren’t implying that indulgent foods should be banned forever and that you should shun your co-worker for bringing in cookies — it really is a sweet gesture. But if it's affecting your long-term health, then there are certain things you can do to improve the situation. Speaking to your office manager and co-workers about reducing the amount of processed foods and switching to natural foods instead is one tactic, but that's not always possible.
So, instead of blaming it on the office, take a deep breath and try some of the following suggestions, which might help you overcome these tricky situations.
Please leave a comment below if you have any tips for others out there!
Keep Healthy Alternatives at Your Desk
Instead of succumbing to those Cheetos, keep an army of snacks at the office to fend off hunger. Snacks like almonds, oranges, clementines, or other fruits are great, but if you have a fridge at work, even better. Stock up on non-fat Greek yogurt or hard-boiled eggs — both are filling and healthy.
Want more ideas? Click here to see 10 Snacks to Keep at Your Desk.
Having a balanced and filling morning meal helps avoid unnecessary snacking later on in the day. The best way to start your day is with whole-grain and fiber-filled foods along with some low-fat protein, like oat porridge or whole-wheat toast with bananas and peanut butter. Want more ideas? Click here to see 8 Healthy Breakfast Options.
Keep a Water Bottle at Your Desk
Drinking enough water helps keep us hydrated throughout the day but can also stave off hunger. Many people mistake dehydration for being hungry and end up eating more than they should — having water nearby may help to curb your snacking. Try adding some fresh lemon juice for variety and a boost of vitamin C.
Eat Foods That Will Keep You Full Longer
It’s important to eat meals that will keep you feeling full, but without a post-lunch food coma. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and fat, and instead opt for filling foods like beans or potatoes that will meet your nutritional needs and help prevent you from snacking on unhealthy foods.
Bring Your Own Lunch
When there's no time to run out for lunch, the junk food in the office becomes a bad alternative. So bringing a healthy and delicious lunch that is satisfying makes it much easier to stay on your diet. For some tips for packing your own lunch or ideas, check out this story on How to Brown Bag It.
Originally published February 14, 2012