Maybe a slice of your co-worker’s birthday cake jumped onto your plate while you grabbed a coffee in the break room, or maybe you ate one too many bagels with cream cheese while slogging through that early-morning meeting — either way, plenty of people can relate to the struggle of making healthy food choices at work. A recent study of 5,200 US workers found that ¼ of them got food from work once a week, with an average calorie total of 1,300. That could add up to two pounds of extra body fat per month, as 70% of these calories were from free snacks and birthday cake rather than meals.
In the last decade, it has become much more common for free snacks to be considered a job perk, especially in the tech industry. Sweet cereal, cookies, and soda are offered far more often than anything that fuels and nourishes our bodies, so these companies often notice a “freshman 15” effect. However, since absenteeism in the US due to obesity costs $8.65 billion, your leadership may not need much convincing to change this piece of workplace culture.
Even if removing birthday cake from the monthly ritual is out of the question, here are some strategies to help you keep your health on track.
- Eat Breakfast – preferably protein. It aids in weight loss, supports brain function, and will reduce your snack cravings before lunch.
- Stay hydrated. Even if that means filling 3 water bottles and keeping them at your desk so you drink them throughout the day, it will not only help you feel more alert, but it will cut down on thirst cues that are often confused with hunger.
- Step away from your desk. 83% of Americans say they snack at their desks while working. Instead of falling into this trap, take a small break and eat mindfully to feel more satiated.
- Be Prepared. Bring your own nuts, apples, bananas, hard boiled eggs as snacks – and eat them before you walk into the break room or a catered meeting.
- Ask for healthier food at meetings. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many of your co-workers feel better eating fruit salad instead of cookies and swapping tangerines for donut holes. You can also suggest a food rotation for meetings and set a great example by bringing delicious, healthy food whenever it’s your turn.
- Swap candy for fruit. Many offices offer an ever-tempting candy bowl which can be replaced by bananas, tangerines, and apples for a similar cost – but whoever fills the bowl needs to know you want something better.
- Bag it up. Studies show individual snack packs cut down free food consumption, so ask to ditch the unlimited sugary cereal supply for single-serve boxes to keep your servings in check.
- Keep them Separated. A study also showed putting snacks or cake in a different location than the coffee and water lowered grazing significantly.
- Start a health committee. It is much easier and more fun to become healthier together, and you have a much better chance of creating a culture shift across your entire workplace
- Become a Wellpowered Worksite. The Center for Population Health at Cheshire Medical Center has a team ready to help your organization create a healthier work environment that includes access to healthy food and so much more! This comprehensive wellness program offers a holistic approach to wellness paired with useful tools, resources, and a personal Wellness Advisor- all at no cost. Click here to learn more.