A guide to healthy “office dining”, business meetings and travel.
We all recognize the challenges of being at a desk for the majority of the day. Aside from “sitting too much”, we have the “eating too much” or the wrong kind of food too. The following guidelines will help you to better manage these lifestyle challenges of office eating, so that you can sustain your energy levels, work smarter and get more out of your day.
VENDING MACHINES, OFFICE TROLLEYS AND TRUCK SHOPS
Most of these foods are not foods. They are “food like substances”, highly processed, chemichalized, industrialized “stuff”, but not food. Not food that your grandma or grand-grandma would recognize as food. Those foods are high in sodium and/or sugar, virtually devoid of fiber and vitamins, contain inflammatory vegetable oils and are preserved and flavored using synthetic compounds.
Eating these foods on a regular basis may result in erratic blood sugar levels, leaving you with low energy, irritability, poor concentration, weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks and stroke, gout, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.
What to do:
- Before grabbing a snack, consider whether you need a break from what you’re doing instead. Going for a short walk or getting a breath of fresh air may be all you need to feel re-energized.
- Drink a glass of water as you may simply be dehydrated.
- Eat when hungry, not when ravenous. Ravenous people tend to make unhealthy food choices, particularly if tempting snacks are readily available.
- Clean up your diet, and say no to processed foods-make it a personal life rule
- Pack healthy snacks with you so you don’t need to rely on those “convenience foods”
Although tea, coffee and cacao contain beneficial flavonoids and other antioxidants, over-consumption of caffeine often goes hand in hand with over-consumption of sugar, milk, cream and refined unhealthy snacks, such as biscuits. Excess caffeine intake may cause feelings of anxiety, increased blood pressure, insomnia and headaches. It can also be a digestive system irritant, causing heartburn, cramping or diarrhea in sensitive individuals.
What to do:
- Before having a cup of tea or coffee, go for a short walk or a breath of fresh air, as it may be all you need.
- Limit yourself to three cups of java per day. Make it black, or use only cream; no sugar or sweeteners, that will help you drink less. Better yet make it bulletproof.
- Soft drinks and energy drinks should not be consumed. You can try to have sparkling water or Kombucha instead.
- Make your own vitamin water by adding sliced lemon, cucumbers, berries or fresh mint leaves to your water, and take that with you in a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle.
- Avoid coffee and tea creamers, as they are highly processed and contain trans fats, which increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and stroke.
- Skip the sugar. The total daily sugar intake for an adult should be less than 10% of total energy, which is approximately six teaspoons of sugar per day for women, and nine teaspoons for men, as recommended by the American Hearth Association. You can choose not to have added sugar to your diet anymore-you make that your personal life rule and just stick to it.
- Try this: with every cup of coffee or tea, drink two glass of water to quench your thirst. (e.g. if you drink 3 cups of coffee/tea, you’ll have to drink 6 cups of water with it).
- During cold and flu season, try hot water with a slice of lemon, orange or fresh ginger in it. Herbal teas also count as water.
If I had a dark chocolate bar for every time I heard about the muffins and donuts at meetings…The challenge with meetings is that either unhealthy foods are provided or none at all. Foods offered during meetings typically are highly refined: high in sugar, fat and salt-a deadly addictive combination. This can limit productivity, creativity (how sharp do you feel after a muffin with 4 tablespoons of sugar???)- increase your waistline and the number of prescription drugs you’ll need.
What to do:
- Be proactive and if possible, organize healthy food platters for meetings. Find various catering outlets that provide delicious smart snack platters.
- Suggested snack platter items to your usual caterer: cucumber strips, cherry tomatoes, humus, celery sticks, berries, boiled eggs, cheese, grapes, snap peas, pineapple, sweet peppers, smoked salmon, nuts, etc. Yummy and suit-friendly!
- Keep your own healthy snacks on hand to consume during or between back-to-back meetings. This is my #1 strategy.
- Ensure that water is available in all meetings along with the tea and coffee.
- Instead have a smart snack before meetings and then a beverage during the meeting.
- If you have to eat from unhealthy food platters, fill a plate of food once, keeping in mind that vegetables are your friendly carbs, select the best protein available (cheese, nuts) and eat a fruit for dessert. In this way, you end up eating a fairly balanced meal rather than too many high carbohydrate, and highly processed snacks if you nibble continuously.
- If there are four or fewer of you who need to have a meeting, consider going for a walk while addressing the issues at hand. This helps to reduce unhealthy snacking – and as a bonus, it spurs creativity and let’s everyone know that workplace wellness it part of the company values.
This is a tricky one. Time zone changes on top of the usual work stresses really make this a tough challenge for my corporate clients. Whether you spend a lot of time in a car or hotels, or fly across time zones, travelling disrupts your usual eating routine and can play havoc with healthier food choices.
What to do:
- The biggest challenge with meals served on airplanes is the almost complete lack of vegetables and fresh fruit. Make sure you do eat all the salad and vegetables that are served, or ask for the vegetarian option.
- You can always take on the plane, nuts and fruits (grapes, banana, dry fruits), vegetables (sliced cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, grape tomatoes), cheese, boiled eggs, and healthy bars. For more whole foods snacks ideas click here, and here. This is what I do when I travel by plane on a 8 hour or longer flight. On shorter flights I just drink water and eat before or after getting off the plane.
- Should you wish to have a meal before boarding a plane, look for restaurants that serve salads, soups and real food as entrees instead of sandwiches. You can choose a salad-based meal with a “clean” protein or look for side vegetables and ask for grilled fish (preferably not farmed raised)
- Meal timing is the other challenge when travelling. A main meal should only be consumed four to five hours after the last main meal. Should you be served a meal one to two hours after a large meal, treat this meal as a snack, rather than consuming the whole meal, or just say “No” to it if you’re not hungry. Pay attention to your body and do not eat only because it’s been offered to you. Remember food is medicine (or poison).
- Fruit juices, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are strictly speaking, too energy dense, high in carbohydrates that will easily be converted into fat in your body. Choose those at your own risk. I should say only if you desire to increase your body fat percentage, the levels of lipids (triglycerides) in your blood and the amount of fat you store in your liver.
- Make water your beverage of choice. If you must imbibe, match every alcoholic drink with a glass or two of water. Keep in mind when you are up there each alcoholic drink counts as two!
- Drinking enough water is very important, as long flights are particularly dehydrating. Have a glass of water every hour or so.
That’s a lot of tips and tricks to make your “office” and “entrepreneur” dining a big success. I hope you will find at least a few that you can implement right away in your busy awesome life and make it even more productive and on purpose.
For support with lifestyle changes, while at home, at the office, traveling for business or pleasure, check out my coaching programs and let’s work together. I’d love to support you on your journey to a better healthier and happier you.
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