By Shelby Keys
March is National Nutrition Month! This nutrition education and information campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is dedicated to highlighting the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy habits. This year’s theme: “Eat Right Your Way” which includes YOU!
At BPHC, we’re highlighting this theme by providing information on making healthy choices.
With the computer being an essential tool in the workplace these days, it’s probably accurate to assume many of us are spending a majority of time each day at a desk. This means you probably eat at least a few meals or snacks at your desk, while simultaneously shooting out emails or answering phone calls. These distractions make it easy to lose track of what is going into our mouths.
According to the American Journal of Nutrition, you could gain nine pounds a year from eating lunch at your desk every day. Fortunately, eating at work can be a healthful addition to your overall eating, IF done right.
Try a few of these tips to keep yourself on track while at work:
- Eat outside of your office space and with friends.
Take this time to socialize, swap healthy lunch ideas, or even take a walk.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand.
The best way to ensure that your desk won’t be a source of overwhelming calories is to keep healthy snacks on hand. By choosing a healthy snack mid morning, before lunch, you are less likely to overeat at lunch and fill your tray with calorie packed pizza or sub, chips, and cookies.
If your office has a refrigerator, you’re in luck! You have a little more freedom in what you can bring such as yogurt, hummus and crackers, low fat cheese, or a smoothie. If not, there are still plenty of options! Other healthy snacks can include whole grain granola bars, peanut butter, celery and carrot sticks, fruit, or a nutritious trail mix. One of my favorites is flax crackers. They provide that perfect crunch while being loaded with fiber!
- Use 15-20 minutes of your lunch hour to get in some physical activity.
Take a walk outside, walk around the building, hit up the nearest fitness facility, or even walk a stairs a couple times.
- Eat breakfast before you come into work.
Your first meal of the day is vital in getting your body started for the day with both energy and nutrients. Too much sugar and carbohydrates in the morning will lead to a quick onset of fatigue, irritability, and hunger, while too little will leave you craving everything in sight by the time you walk through those office doors, making resisting temptation seem impossible. A good breakfast consists of fruit, dairy, vegetables, or some type of whole grain along with protein. Protein in the morning is essential: it takes longer to digest, will keep you fuller longer, leading to less hunger throughout the morning until lunch, and improves concentration as it helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. Think eggs, lean meat or fish, vegetable protein, nut or soy butters, dairy products or whole grain cereals as your protein base!
- When you have time to pack a lunch, do so.
That way you can manipulate what’s in your food and easily resist the plethora of unhealthy menu options available in the cafeteria or local fast foods. You can try taking leftovers from the night before or do a little preparation beforehand. Weekends are a great time to make quick and easy lunches that can be frozen into individual portions. Choose protein such as chicken (or if vegetarian, you can opt for tofu) and combine with fruit, vegetables, and a whole grain. Perhaps a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and a small apple, or a grilled chicken salad topped with veggies. This ensures that you get enough calories along with protein that will keep you full. Some other great options can include carrot sticks, pita squares, hummus, a deli sandwich with lean meats and low fat cheese, soup, baked sweet potato, stir fry, parfaits, green salad, half a bagel with applesauce or pudding and fruit and veggie sticks.
- Make healthy choices in the workplace cafeteria by staying informed.
Most office cafeterias will offer some type of healthy option daily along with a soup and salad bar. Read up on what your office cafeteria offers and what their choices are. Fill up on salad first and top with fresh vegetables of your liking. Think variety of color. And try to avoid extra cheese though when possible. When selecting a dressing go for olive oil or balsamic over creamy dressings and for soups, opt for broth over cream soups. If your cafeteria has a grill or deli, order a grilled chicken sandwich over the burger or a turkey sandwich, without the mayo. When it comes to dessert, try to stay away from the cheesecake, cookies, pie, unless you know a friend will be splitting it with you. Instead try fruit, yogurt, frozen yogurt, jello, or pudding for something sweet, or pack a small handful (3-4 pieces) of dark chocolate Hershey’s kisses or dark chocolate pieces. The chocolate will provide the sweetness you are looking for, and dark chocolate is good for you heart! If you are vegan, vegetarian, or have other food restrictions, consult with the cafeteria manager to see what your available options are.
- Opt for whole grains, protein, fruits, and veggies.
These foods will help keep hunger at bay longer and will keep blood sugar levels steady, reducing the post-lunch fatigue that often hits with calorie-dense, high carbohydrate meals.
- Focus on your food!
Multitasking is so out of style, single-tasking is in! I see too many people eating while working and it takes the enjoyment out of life and food, if you ask me. Pay attention to distractions and try to minimize them so you can focus on your intake and cues to hunger and fullness. If you interrupt concentration, you may end up taking in even more calories than if you had taken the time to really enjoy the food in front of you! So put down that cell phone, stop the emails, and start reaping the benefits.
Shelby is a dietetic intern at BPHC. Follow us on Twitter at @HealthyBoston for more healthy eating tips from Shelby throughout #NutritionMonth.