Deskside snacking: Eating well in the workplace is not impossible

It’s been a long day at the office. Visions of the vending machine flash through your mind. Caffeine and sugar are calling your name.

But before you head out to the break room, consider this: The additional 140 calories from a 12-ounce can of soda and 220 calories (or more) from a candy bar or bagged snack, if eaten on most work days, will create a weight gain of 25 pounds per year. Substitute a diet soda for the sugary one, and you can still expect a weight gain of 15 pounds per year.

Add to that the extra calories we eat when someone brings in donuts or “goodies” to the office, and what about that desktop candy jar? These office hazards add to inevitable weight gain that most of us blame on aging, heredity and/or metabolism.

We are not doomed to work in “obesifying” office conditions and can make positive changes to manage our health and weight. Be prepared for office pitfalls (even if you work from home) and plan ahead.

Here is a list of strategies to consider for a healthier work environment:
Eat breakfast — Breakfast skippers start the day at a disadvantage and they may start grazing early and feel they have no willpower to resist sugary and fatty foods that they might otherwise avoid. Bring healthy and portion-controlled snacks — Prepare snacks the night before, portioning them out in snack bags.

Some examples of healthy snacks include roasted almonds; low-fat cheese wedges; fresh seasonal fruit such as apples, grapes, cherries or berries; fresh cut celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, grape tomatoes or baby carrots, with or without low-fat dressing; a couple of olives or slices of pickle; a hard-boiled egg; and low-fat, low-sugar yogurt. When using prepackaged snacks, select 100-calorie low-fat popcorn, if a microwave is available. 

Eat mindfully. No matter what you are eating, focus on the smell, taste and crunch. Don’t eat and work, or look at your computer monitor, at the same time. This type of multi-tasking doesn’t allow your brain to realize that you are satisfied with your snack, tempting you  to keep grazing.

Think thirsty, not hungry. Have lots of cool water on hand to drink throughout the day. Many times we think we are hungry and overeat when we have not had enough fluids.

Read labels. Look at the contents of the vending machine. Ask the person who works with the vending company to add lower calorie, lower fat and higher protein snacks to the mix.

Move more. Take a walk. Stand up and stretch. Identify supportive co-workers and share recipe ideas for healthy snacks. Encourage one another to eat healthy and exercise more.

Change the office culture. Model good eating habits. If you bring in a snack to share, make it a healthy one, such as fresh fruit, whole grains and low-fat foods. Suggest non-food rewards and celebrate  your co-workers’ successes with positive recognition and certificates of appreciation.