Avoid those sneaky office calories! Tips for healthy eating at work

Stock image | Photo by Daisy-Daisy/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — Have you heard the saying “fail to plan and plan to fail”? One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for healthy eating at work is to plan ahead. With a plan in place, you’ve taken the first step toward success. 

Stock image | Photo by Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Start by making a menu plan, just like you would for at-home meals. Think about when you’ll eat while at work. Do you need lunch? What about dinner? Surely you’ll have a snack break or two. 

Next, sit down with a pen and paper and write out what you’ll eat each day. When you go grocery shopping, add the items you need for work to your shopping list. For more ideas on planning out menus, click here.

Now that you’ve planned out your menu for work, you’re on the right track. You might want to focus a little deeper. There may be opportunities for extra calories to add up here and there. All alone they don’t seem significant, but when you lump them together across the day or the week, they really add up. Watch out for the following sneaky calories at your workplace:

The office vending machine

Indulging in a candy bar every once in a while isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re snacking on a candy bar every day, you’re adding an extra 200-300 calories to your diet. Over the course of a five-day work week, that’s 1,000 to 1,500 calories.

The candy dish

It’s hard to believe that the mints in the candy dish might make a dent in your healthy eating plan. Most mints are around 20 calories each. Let’s say you grab three over the course of the day. That’s 60 calories a day, or 300 calories a week. Alone that doesn’t seem significant, but if you had a candy bar too, the calories are really starting to climb.

The office celebration

Cupcakes, donuts and bagels with cream cheese are common office celebration foods. Rarely does somebody bring a veggie tray to the party. What if you helped yourself to a donut this week, a cupcake next week and a bagel the week after that? Each week you’ve added around 200 calories. Just like I mentioned above, all alone those extra calories are no big deal. If we add them to our running tally, we’re up to about 2,000 extra calories.

The catered meeting or restaurant lunch

A catered lunch now and then is a nice treat. Maybe you were served a healthy sandwich and side salad. That’s great! Maybe you were served a burger and fries. Yummy! Likely the big difference between the two is the amount of fat and calories.

Did you know that the average plate with a burger and fries is around 900 calories? For many people, that’s half of the calories you should eat in a day. Wow! Did you think about how that affected our running tally? Let’s say overall that one indulgent meal added an extra 500 calories to your day. Our running tally is now up to an extra 2,500 calories for the week.

The coffee bar

Sure, coffee alone is low in calories and has some nutritional properties, but what did you add to your coffee? A tablespoon of coffee creamer and a teaspoon of sugar adds up to about 35 calories. If you add sugar and creamer to your coffee, how much do you add? How many cups do you have a day? A week?

Even if you only added enough creamer and sugar for 35 calories a cup and you had three cups a day, that’s still 100 extra calories. Over the course of a week, you’ve added 700 extra calories, bringing our tally to 3,200.

The soda fountain

Are you a carbonation craver? Many of us are. The occasional soda here and there might feel like a nice treat, but are you aware of how many calories a can of soda has? A sugary soda has around 150 calories per can (12 ounces). If you have one every day of the week and two a day on the weekend, you’ve added an extra 1,350 calories to the mix.

Are you ready for the grand total? How many sneaky calories found their way into your week? Drumroll, please … 4,550 calories. That’s a lot! Did you know that it takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound? At this rate you’re on track to gain weight. Sure, healthy eating and exercise will help counteract some of these extra calories but likely not all of them.

You really enjoy a cup of coffee every now and then. You want to celebrate with Susan from the office when she brings in cupcakes. You don’t want your boss to think you’re ungrateful for the catered lunch. So what do you do? Do you always have to say no? Of course not! 

It’s all about balance. If you already grabbed a candy bar from the vending machine today, skip over the mints at the secretary’s desk and drink water instead of a sugary soda. If you know your boss is bringing in burgers and fries for your staff meeting, eat a low-calorie breakfast and dinner to find balance. If you’re not willing to give up the sugar and creamer in your coffee, limit the amount you use over the course of the day, and cut out added sugars in other areas.

Stock photo courtesy of USU Extension Create Better Health blog, St. George News

Just like you started your week with a plan in place for your work meals, you can start with a plan in place for the sneaky calories. Let me say it again: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Simply being aware of the choices that you are making, and how these choices add up as a whole, will help you plan for the sneaky calories. Enjoy them here and there, but keep track of how many calories have already snuck their way in. Don’t let them be so sneaky the next time.

When you need a healthy snack idea to help ward off the sneaky calories, try strawberry fruit leather. Click here for the recipe. 

Fill up a plastic food container with a batch of fruit leather and stick it in the office refrigerator. When you’re in need of a sweet treat, you’ll have a healthy option. Enjoy!

Written by CANDI MERRITT, Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador.

This article originally appeared Jan. 13, 2021, on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.

Copyright © CreateBetterHealth.org, all rights reserved.

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