Every Sunday you cook several pounds of chicken, countless carrots, and steamed broccoli. You rice cauliflower to avoid carbs. You select yogurt with low calories and sugar to complement your diet. Then you carefully package a week’s worth of lunches for you (and probably others in your family) to help keep everyone’s healthy eating on track. A new study, however, reveals your hard work can be completely undone by the free food given out at work during the week.
This study, conducted by researchers who work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found the food people eat at work can account for nearly 1,300 calories a week. That’s nearly two and a half Big Macs. For some people, that’s their entire daily recommended caloric intake. All those free cookies, birthday cakes, donuts from clients, boxed sandwiches and chips, and office potluck luncheons – complete with casseroles, rich desserts, and creamy sides – can add up.
The study found that office foods are seldom healthy. They’re high in salt and refined grains, the soda flows freely, and rarely are fruits or whole grains in sight. Because it’s not likely these free foods are going to stop being present in your regular work week, the best way to avoid being sucked into high-caloric grazing is to know how to approach it when the time comes.
Plan for it in Your Meal Prep
When you know celebrations are coming up at work – birthdays, retirements, or going away parties – plan accordingly. Bring an alternative dish for yourself, or try to duck out of the festivities after the congratulations but before the cake is passed. Doing something as simple as avoiding the breakroom where you know someone brought donuts, brownies, or cookies for everyone can work wonders, too – don’t put yourself in the position to sabotage your diet. Bring foods with you to satisfy your sweet tooth – or salty cravings if that’s your kryptonite. Watermelon, almonds, pineapple, low-fat popcorn, apples – all of these are excellent choices to substitute for unhealthy sweet or salty snacks.
Don’t Be Part of the Problem
Sometimes all it takes is one person to break the cycle and start a healthy routine. You could be that person. But don’t take that to mean your potluck contribution has to be boring or tasteless. You can still get a thumbs-up from coworkers by using a recipe from Weight Watchers®, Cooking Light®, or other source that’s been modified into a healthier version. Who knows – your focus on healthy eating might inspire others to do the same.
Dr. Marjorie Broussard is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Cinco Ranch Clinic. She helps her patients manage chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Her clinical interests include preventive medicine and women’s health.