Chicago — Contrary to popular belief, there are many benefits to working in the office. But unfortunately for me, eating healthy isn’t one of them.
Every time I’ve had a chance to travel into work, I’m taunted by the fast food signs I pass on the expressway and the tempting thoughts of getting junk food at the gas station down the street from my destination.
It turns out that I’m not alone.
In 2019, the American Heart Association reported that more than half of workers in the United States have trouble eating healthy on the job. Also like me, more than 91% of respondents in the survey were interested in improving the healthfulness of their typical workday lunch.
But how do we do that? I think I’ll start with some of the AHA’s recommendations for eating healthy at the office. Here are three tips they give:
Plan ahead for lunch
When I bring my lunch from home, I find my cravings to be less aggressive and I feel more in control. I also spend less time going out to get food during breaks and more time decompressing with music or reading articles.
According to AHA, creating a meal plan for the day or week is the best way to improve your food choices. The plan should take your schedule into consideration, so you won’t be incentivized to grab those fries you've been craving before heading into a long meeting.
For lunch, bring a lean protein, a fruit or vegetable and a whole grain item. Those things will help you reach daily nutritional goals, keep you from feeling full and prevent your mind from wandering to your guilty pleasures while working.
Plan your snacks
Snacking is okay as long as you eat the right things. Instead of chips or candy, plan to pack snacks from home containing fiber and protein to keep you feeling satiated longer.
That means that unsalted nuts, Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese, whole grain crackers, unbuttered popcorn, fruit or raw vegetables get a greenlight. My personal favorite is a granola bar. But if you’re like me, be weary of eating more than the serving size. Those calories add up.
Healthy coffee breaks
When you have a coffee break, try not to add too many extra ingredients. This may be painful, but limit added sugar to 1 teaspoon per cup. I know, that’s insane. But according to AHA, added sugars result in extra calories that can lead to extra pounds and possibly obesity. It also can have an impact on heart health.
Ultimately, AHA recommends limiting total added sugar to 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) for men.
Creamers or syrups may add too much sugar too. Ditch the creamer and add your favorite cow or nut milk for flavor. Cinnamon and vanilla extract are also good substitutes.
Since your favorite coffee store may tend to include unwanted calories, stick to coffee that’s brewed in the office, if you can.