June marks the 5th annual National Employee Wellness month, so this is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can make your workplace healthier. Have you found that there always seem to be tempting treats in the office? Maybe a coworker baked cookies to share, there’s that jar of chocolates at the front desk, or it’s hard to turn down the free pizza your boss ordered.
Whatever it may be, the workplace often seems to be filled with foods that are high in sugar, fat and calories – which can lead to weight gain and ultimately increase your risk for developing cancer. The good news is that there are things you can do to make your workplace healthier and limit the temptations.
1. Keep in mind the saying: out of sight, out of mind. You will be less tempted to grab that piece of candy if you keep it out of sight. Don’t keep sweets at your desk, and if your office keeps a candy jar out for everyone, suggest filling it with something you’ll be less tempted to overeat (such as breath mints).
2. If you usually get cake or other sweets for events such as staff birthdays, try suggesting a healthier “treat”. For example, the office could order a nice flower arrangement to add a little cheer on the birthday employee’s desk. Or, bring in coffee and fresh fruit for a new tradition on birthdays. You might be surprised to find that other coworkers also want to avoid the constantly available treats, so don’t be afraid to talk about setting a policy to eliminate or reduce them.
3. Make sure you have enough of your own tasty and healthy snacks so you aren’t as tempted by unhealthy snacks in the office kitchen. Here are some ideas:
- Fruit. It’s easy to grab on the go. You can even keep a fruit basket on your desk for nice visual appeal and a nutritious snack when you’re hungry. Have it with a light string cheese to add some protein that will keep you full even longer.
- Veggies and hummus. Cut up carrots, bell peppers, celery or cucumbers to dip in hummus make for a nutritious snack packed full of cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
- Nuts. Walnuts and almonds are a good source of heart healthy fats, and they make for a very satisfying snack. However, they are high in calories, so you should measure out a single portion or even try the individual 100-calorie packs for a convenient snack.
- Made-over crackers and cheese. Make this snack nutritious by using whole grain crackers with a spread of low-fat cottage cheese topped with a few fresh berries.
- Trail mix. Make your own trail mix with Cheerios (try multigrain for a touch of sweetness), raisins, and a handful of almonds. You can even add a few dark chocolate chips for sweetness to help you avoid the coffee cake in the kitchen.
- Yogurt. Nonfat flavored yogurt makes for a great slightly
–sweet snack that is also filling. If your workplace has a full refrigerator, put a light whipped yogurt in the freezer for a nutritious dessert-like snack.
Start making your workplace healthier this month. With so many fresh fruits and vegetables coming into season during the summer months, this is a great time to makeover the foods you have at the office.
How do you eat well at work?
Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. You can follow her on twitter @SonjaGoedkoopRD.