Bust Bad Workday
TIPS ON EATING HEALTHY DURING THE WORKDAY
Are you the type who walks by a Dunkin’Donuts without so much as a sideways glance—but find yourself in the Monday morning meeting inexplicably reaching for a glazed donut with sprinkles on top? The International Labor Organization estimates that poor diet habits are costing workplaces up to 20 percent in lost productivity. According to Christopher Wanjek, author of the book Food at Work (ILO Publications), poor nutrition can affect many workplace issues— morale, safety, productivity—as well as the long-term health of workers. If your intestinal fortitude falters while on the job, use the following tips to bust these three bad eating habits in the office.
BAD HABIT #1:
Morning Meeting Carb Load
Despite your best intentions, those pastries look too good, and you give in and indulge when it comes to eating something doughy and sweet at the morning meeting.
Dr. Audrey Cross, Ph.D., a professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, advises that one way to ward off this temptation is to eat a balanced breakfast.
“A large percentage of Americans skip breakfast and just have coffee with milk and sugar,” Cross says. “This is not enough calories to maintain mental function in the morning.”
She cites a number of studies that show people who eat breakfast perform better at tasks related to mathematical computations, memory and logic. “A good breakfast consists of protein and a bit of fat,” Cross says. “For example, egg whites with breakfast meat or cereal with skim milk and fruit.” She explains that the combination of protein and fat leads to longer levels of sustained energy, which help fight the urge to grab a sugary item.
If you absolutely must have something, choose a bagel over a pastry. You can cut the bagel in half and drink some tea with milk and honey to curb your sweet tooth.
BAD HABIT #2:
Mid-Afternoon Munching Mania
It’s 2:00 p.m., and you have been too busy to stop for lunch. Now, you’re so hungry you can’t focus, so you grab the first thing you can find—a candy bar or a leftover piece of birthday cake in the break room.
Tom Weede, author of The Entrepreneur Diet (Entrepreneur Press), explains that when workers put off their midday meal (or skip it altogether), their blood sugar levels become destabilized, affecting their energy and ability to focus. This problem is made worse by that early morning coffee, because the caffeine can further destabilize blood sugar and increase the degree of highs and lows. “Turning to candy and other simple sugar solutions for a quick fix sets you up for an unproductive cycle of rising and falling blood sugar levels,” Weede says. Instead, he suggests not relying on what’s available at work but rather keeping a supply of your own snacks. Some of his top recommendations include protein/carb combinations like apples and almonds, string cheese with fruit, and peanut butter with crackers.
If you don’t have any healthy snacks on you, make better choices from what’s available, like fresh fruit or juice from the break room, or trail mix, popcorn or low-fat nutrition bars from a vending machine.
BAD HABIT #3:
Late Night Dining Indulgences
It’s 8:30 p.m., and you’re meeting a client for dinner. You know that eating a heavy meal this late at night is not the best thing, but it’s been a long day, and you deserve a nice dinner on the company dollar.
Cross suggests selecting a lighter entrée, such as fish or chicken, without a heavy sauce.
“Many business people think that if they eat a heavy meal, it will help them to fall asleep later,” she says. “This is true, but they are also more likely to wake up during the night with indigestion, and then have trouble getting back to sleep, which will affect their performance at work the next day.”
Weede points out that it’s not just the content of these dinners that presents a problem, but the size of the entrée as well. “Restaurant plates today are 150-percent larger than they used to be,” he says.
He suggests splitting a meal with an associate, asking the kitchen to cut the meal in half, ordering the lunch portion or just choosing a few appetizers instead of a main course.
As for alcohol, both Cross and Weede agree that the best bet is not to drink any alcohol within two to three hours of going to sleep.
One problem with business dinners is that people tend to keep eating even after they’re full. Avoid this by heavily “salting” the remaining food on your plate. If you go to take a bite, the salt will remind you of the fact that you’re not hungry.