Though eating fresh, light, and green might have been the theme for summer diet habits, once Labor Day has come and passed, your fork (or hand) may reach for slightly heartier – and sweeter – snacks and meals. Because Fall presents a slew of holiday gatherings centered around the munchies – from Halloween candy to Thanksgiving pies – you may find yourself battling your jean button on casual Fridays at the office. It’s especially tough when you work in an environment that prefers to celebrate all of these calendar dates, often resulting in countless parties, pot lucks and dinners that can take your mostly-nutritious diet to indulgent, ASAP. And hey, even if you keep to the vegetables at home, snacking on carb and sugar-loaded foods between 9 and 5 can have a major implication on your health.
“You spend half your waking life at the office, so it can have a huge impact on your health, especially when it comes to food. It’s so easy to be tempted by junk food and treats when not everyone is on the same page with healthy eating,” explains registered dietitian Bridget Swinney MS, RD.
If you don’t want to tip the scales or feel lethargic when you should be productive, it’s important to encourage your colleagues to eat smarter – and not just after January 1 rolls around, by all year. As Swinney says, there are is strength in numbers, so consider some of these challenges, suggestions and ideas from nutrition pros to get your office on the right track toward health:
Ask for a bigger fridge
Depending on the size of your company, you may be dismayed to bring your lunch because there simply isn’t a place to put it. Though easier to grab-and-go in between meetings, Swinney says you’ll make better lunch choices when you meal prep for the week ahead. Instead of trying to cram your chicken, quinoa and veggie concoction in a dorm-room-sized freezer locker, Swinney suggests speaking to management about a ‘lunch-only’ refrigerator. As you prep your argument, it’s essential you have the staff’s support, explaining why it would create a better workplace where you can meet deadlines, create stronger strategies and be more efficient. Want to shoot for the stars? Throw in an ask for a toaster and blender too, so avocado toast and smoothies for breakfast are a real possibility.
Keep fresh fruits and produces at hand
Even if you can’t convince your boss to have carrot sticks and humus delivered on the reg, Swinney says to talk to your teammates about going in together on a weekly delivery of apples, oranges and other nutrient-rich snacks. She notes that while the saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may seem elementary, it’s truth extends far beyond childhood. When you and your co-workers always have something protein or antioxidant -filled at reach for when your hunger pangs strike mid-afternoon, you build your immune system and keep off the extra pounds.
You could take turns alternating between who-brings-what, or each throw in the same dollar amount each week and have someone make a grocery store run for the goods. Either route, keep your buys near your cubicle or space, that way fridge bandits won’t wreak havoc on your well-intended plans.
Make it a contest
Nothing like a healthy dose of competition to uptick your appetite to be choosier with your snack habits. Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Jennifer Bowers, PhD explains collecting a pool of colleagues to work against one another will not only bring you closer, but is a fun way to improve your diets at the same time. From who can make the tastiest dessert that provides vitamins and minerals to who can down the most water in a week or take the most steps, there are plenty of ideas, depending on your collective goals. And hey, even though you might have a prize for the winner each time – a cookbook, maybe an extra day of vacation if your boss agrees – mostly, you’re building camaraderie and a network to lean on when you’re tempted by the ‘fruit’ of a Twizzler. “When coworkers collaborate to promote a healthy attitude toward food, and agree
to support instead of sabotage, everybody wins,” Bowers says.
Host a build-your-own salad bar
Instead of the traditional Thanksgiving potluck or chips-and-dip get together for Opening Night of NFL, Swinney says to turn to the garden for your company celebrations. Not only can you make better choices when you pick fresh from the Earth, but since not everyone cooks, it encourages more participation, too. When these big dates come around – or on a weekly basis if you’re feeling ambitious – she suggests hosting a Build-Your-Own Salad Bar. “Make a sign-up sheet with suggested items: pre-washed greens, whole avocados, rotisserie chicken, canned tuna, a veggie tray, whole grain crackers, light salad dressing, canned corn, cherry tomatoes, walnuts or slivered almonds, dried cranberries,” she explains. Even if the whole office is sipping wine or beer while they munch on salad, you still take a bulk of the un-needed calories away when casseroles, bread puddings and cheesy foods are kept out of working hours.
Be upfront about your needs and requests
You already know you should always negotiate your salary, continuously ask for feedback and ways to improve and be the greatest proponent of your career, but what about asking your employer to stand up to the challenge of creating a healthy attitude toward clean eating? Swinney says making your manager aware of any dietary restrictions or concerns you may have over frequent sweets scattered about the office shows you’re thoughtful about your workplace and aim to make it better for not only yourself, but everyone. One example might be asking for non-dairy creamers for those who are lactose-intolerant, or perhaps want to cut out the fatty nature of whole milk. Or, if there is a consistent flow of birthdays at your large corporation, you might consider celebrating once a month instead of each time someone laps around the sun. These seemingly small changes can add up to a big influence on your habits and your co-workers.