It’s someone’s birthday today, so there’s cake at 10am. An all day workshop tomorrow means morning and afternoon tea (scones with jam and cream anyone?). The team are heading to the pub for lunch on Friday to celebrate a recent success. And that’s without mentioning your 3pm cravings, the well stocked vending machine in the staff kitchen or the ever present bowl of chocolates within arms reach of where you sit.
Sound familiar? Sometimes it might feel like just doing your job and being a good team player is sabotaging your good dietary habits. While you can’t always avoid foods typically associated with team celebrations (and why would you want to?), you can put in place a few strategies to ensure you’re eating well through most of your working hours.
The team might head out to lunch each week in addition to a weekly morning tea. But that still leaves plenty of opportunity for you to control your office eating habits. Eating well often comes down to thinking ahead and getting a little organised. For example:
- Bring Your Lunch – as well as the cost savings, bringing lunch from home means you know exactly what’s in your food! Make extra at dinner so you have left overs for lunch the next day, get inventive with home-made soup on the weekends so you have enough for the week ahead (or the freezer) and consider simple salads with some form of protein (e.g. hard-boiled eggs, tinned fish, beans etc)
- Stock-up on Supplies – make sure you have supplies on hand for when you get hungry. Think tinned tuna, rice cakes, instant miso soup and nuts. These can be stored easily in your desk drawer and keep well, helping you avoid the vending machine
- Buy Extra Fruit – if your office doesn’t supply fruit, stock up during your weekly grocery shopping to ensure you have enough for work as well as home
That said, very few people are organised enough to bring lunch from home all the time. On these days, you’re often faced with the same variety from the closest food court. Shockingly, less than 7% of us eat the recommended daily servings of vegetables (five for women, six for men), so the more you cram in at lunch the better. Your best food court lunch options are usually:
- Sandwich Bar – a cheese and salad sandwich, preferably on bread that’s not white. Have avocado instead of butter or margarine and skip the meat – often it’s piled high and is far more than what you need. You’ll get around five serves of veggies here without really trying
- Japanese – Sashimi or sushi, preferably made with brown rice. Miso soup and edamame are also good choices
- Chinese / Asian – a small serving of dishes containing protein (not deep fried) and vegetables, without the rice or noodles (e.g. lemongrass chicken). Again, this increases your veggie intake
Swapping Sugary Snacks and Drinks
Around one-third of the energy we consume comes from ‘discretionary foods’ such as cakes, muffins, scones, confectionery, biscuits and soft drinks. These foods are generally high in saturated fat, sugar and salt and low in nutritional value. Again, while there’s nothing wrong with a (small) piece of cake for John’s birthday, discretionary foods shouldn’t be a daily habit. Guidelines here include:
- Swap the Cake for Fruit – there’s nothing wrong with turning down that lemon slice at the workshop and grabbing the piece of fruit you bought with you from home
- Avoid Soft Drink – a can of soft drink contains on average 10 teaspoons of sugar and no nutritional value. So skip the vending machine and grab a glass of water instead
Get Them Out of Sight!
And finally… studies have shown that if we can’t see chocolate or if it’s too far away, we won’t eat it. So move that bowl as far away from you as possible so you won’t be tempted.