Columbia University Medical Center

Healthier Eating at Work: Overcoming Daily Challenges

200395987-001The workplace presents many obstacles to healthy eating, but with a little planning, they can be predicted and managed. Common challenges include a lack of time, stress, and celebrations with high-calorie choices. While we don’t have to deprive ourselves all the time to be healthy, some tricky situations arise time and again, so having a few go-to solutions will mean you can focus on your work instead of worrying about calories.  Below are ideas to help limit calories while maintaining balance:

Challenge #1: Time. Cafes around the CUMC campus offer Greek yogurt; protein bars (best choices: KIND, Luna, Zone Perfect, Go Lean Crisp, & Gnu Bar); protein drinks (best choices: Muscle Milk & Odwalla Protein; others are high in sugar); string cheese; nuts; 100 cal packs of stick pretzels; Soy Crisps; chicken sandwiches w/o mayo; chef salads; and Greek wraps. Wendy’s Chili is well balanced, with protein, fiber, and flavor.  To satisfy a sweet craving, order a Jr. Frosty (200 cals, 20% daily calcium) or pick up fruit from a street cart. At Chipotle, skip the tortilla (300 cals) & chips (570 cals) and order a chicken or steak Burrito Bowl with veggies, black beans, anda  small scoop of brown rice.  Ask for a second container and save half, to split it with a pal or save for leftovers.

Challenge #2: Stress Cravings. First, drink water or tea since sweet cravings may be a sign of dehydration. Second, think about when you last ate. If it was 3+ hours ago, try eating a meal and see if you still crave that craved sweet. A study in Appetite showed eating craved foods when hungry reinforces their appeal. Third, check in with yourself about what’s bothering you while taking a few deep breaths with your eyes closed or getting up from your desk. These small steps can help you to refocus, reduce the stress response, and may lessen the appeal of the craved food.

Challenge #3: Work celebrations.  While delicious, Carrot Tops cakes are calorie laden. Edible Arrangements is a delicious option that won’t cause a sugar slump. For those who think celebrations aren’t the same without chocolate, Edible Arrangements has chocolate-dipped options!  Replacing cake with fruit even a few times a year will save on calories. Or take the focus off food and put the money toward an Amazon Gift Card.  Your colleagues—and your waistline—will thank you!

This article originally appeared in newsletter of the Weight Control Center at Columbia University Medical Center.

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