Lead the Way to a Healthy Office Culture

Sometimes it seems we spend all of our time at work, and our eating habits are influenced very much by our office environment––from the tempting vending machines to the cool new lunch spot around the block to the boss buying bagels with cream cheese every morning.

Sitting down at work for eight hours (or more) a day is also a major disadvantage to our health. It increases the likelihood of heart disease, weight gain, and other illnesses. Not to mention, when we leave work, most of us sit in the car or subway, and then sit at home. That is a lot of sitting in one day.

You can still maintain a healthy, nutritious lifestyle at your office if you plan accordingly, make small changes every day, and learn how to “work” your workday to your advantage.

Workplace pic

(image credit: Hunter McMillan)

Use your workday structure to plan healthy eating. The great thing about being at work is having that daily structure. Although you may not know when certain stressors are coming your way, you usually know exactly when you have your lunch break and can escape for a little bit. Set that time aside for yourself to eat healthy, and mindfully, without any distractions. View your lunch time as an important meeting with yourself where you refuel and recharge.

Get a colleague on your team. It is important to have friends––and coworkers––who can support and live a healthy lifestyle with you. Announce to your colleagues that your health is important to you and tell them about your goals. Before you know it, you may have your whole office practicing healthier eating habits. Also, your boss will be thankful. After all, healthy employees are more cost-effective and productive!

Plan and pack ahead. This is key for eating healthy at work. Pack yourself a lunchbox the night before with a variety of healthy snacks that include fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you have a fridge in your office, use it to your advantage, and pack a yogurt and fresh berries. Make sure you have some options so when a craving creeps up, you have a good mix of foods to chose from. If you stay at work late, bring extra snacks. Sure, packing ahead of time may be a little time-consuming, but once you get in the habit of having healthier eating options at work, you’ll feel better and find that it was worth sacrificing some time upfront.

Keep a stash of backup snacks. In case you completely forget your lunchbox at home, or are simply rushing around, make sure you have some extra snacks at work. Some great options of non-perishable items are low-sugar protein bars and trail mixes, low-sodium beef jerky, and instant oatmeal. Keep items that are healthy, but not too tempting. You wouldn’t want to be reaching for your backup snacks simply because the temptation is there. This is your emergency stash.

Keep a clean desk. That is, clean from candy jars, cookies, and any other snacks. Studies show that snacks are more tempting when you see them, so try to keep them out of sight1. Follow these simple steps: Close the lid on that jar of candy and put it away in a cabinet. Move the box of donuts from the meeting room, to the break room. Take an alternate route to your desk to avoid that break room temptation.

Have a water bottle in sight. Staying hydrated is just as important as healthy eating, so always keep a water bottle on your desk and take breaks to sip on it. If needed, set an alarm clock to remind yourself to drink up. Other than keeping you hydrated, water will also help you feel fuller and prevent you from misjudging your feeling of thirst for hunger.

Break, move, and stretch. Every hour or so, take a few minutes to walk somewhere, whether it’s to the furthest bathroom or even for a breath of fresh air. If you don’t have anywhere to go, try to stretch at your desk, or do some squats, maybe your colleagues will join you! Finally, when you leave the office, ditch the elevator and walk down those stairs. Feeling even more active? Park your car few blocks away from the office or walk to a further subway station to get in a few extra steps on your way home.

It might take some time and dedication to manage your weight and eat healthy in an office environment, but it can be done. Stand up for your health, set some time aside to plan, and you’ll notice the difference soon enough. Don’t be surprised if your whole office follows your lead. Energy and a great mood is contagious, so cheers to a healthy office culture!

Editor’s note: Did you know May is Global Employee Health & Fitness Month? Click here to learn more.

References:

  1. Sonnentag, S., Pundt, A., & Venz, L. (2017). Distal and proximal predictors of snacking at work: A daily-survey study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(2):151-162.

Marta Dulaba Author Pic

Guest post by Marta Dulaba, nutrition student

Every Kid Healthy

The percentage of children with obesity nationwide has more than tripled since the 1970s1. The current average diet for the majority of nationwide kids consists of chips, candy, and soda, along with a not-so-nutritious school lunch and frequent fast food dinners. Children with obesity are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes.

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(photo image credit: https://kurbo.com/)

That’s why Action for Healthy Kids has established “Every Kid Healthy Week” from April 24-28 as a great opportunity to help children develop healthier eating habits. The annual observance, which takes place among American schools nationwide, was created to celebrate health in schools and achievements in wellness. Its focus lies on the current efforts partnering schools across the nation have made and continue to make to improve the health and wellness of their students, through nutrition education, physical activity, and learning. Anyone can be a part of this promotion where schools are invited to host an event either during the official week itself or the entire month of April.

Action for Healthy Kids calls for volunteers of all ages who are passionate about helping children in the fight against obesity to contribute their time and energy in the events scheduled on the organization’s website. If you’d like to sign up to volunteer, search the website to see if your neighborhood school is already listed as a partner and if any events are scheduled with the school. If your school is not listed, ask them to register, take the pledge, and join! Action for Healthy Kids provides several resources, event ideas, and past success stories that any school can implement with the help of trusting volunteers. You don’t need to be a health professional to inspire children to take action.

BlogPostAbigailOrtiz Pic2

(photo image credit: https://i0.wp.com/)

Action for Healthy Kids understands that a child who is frequently active and maintains a balanced diet is much better equipped when it comes to being able to focus and learn in school. A healthy diet consisting of a wide variety of well-proportioned foods promotes optimal growth, enhances brain development, affects intellectual, emotional, and psychological development, and, most importantly, prevents obesity in our children. Aspire to become a role model to the children in your community: help kick-start a field day event, teach kids yoga, tutor on the dangers of excessive sugar consumption…and don’t forget to take the pledge!

References:

  1. Fryar CD, Carroll MD, Ogden CL (2014). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents: United States, 1963-1965 through 2011-2012. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Health Statistics.
Abigail Ortiz Author Pic

Guest post by Abigail Ortiz, nutrition student

Fried.

Somebody, please save me. Every four months, we have to prep for our seasonal sales meetings and I end up putting in so many hours at work I might as well blow up an air mattress and crash there for the night because, by the time I come back to my apartment, it’s nearly the wee hours of the morning and, as you may remember, I have issues with falling asleep*, so it seems mere moments before the dreaded alarm goes off and I’m up and back at it once again.

My biggest issue, though, is that I feel so unbelievably groggy with anything less than eight hours of sleep that I know I’m coming across as loopy (well, loopier than normal, at least) once I’m back in the office and, quite possibly, even drunk (because of all the word-slurring and stumbling over my own feet in the hallways), which would not be cool and not just for the most obvious reason, but, because I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage in over 16 years and that would have been a huge waste of abstinence only to find out I’m being called a lush during water cooler discussions.

Now, if my co-workers thought I was smoking crack, that would be okay.

*NOTE TO SELF: Nice job on sticking to the new plan.

National Licorice Day

I’m trying to get over this sad news and so would like to focus instead on the fact that today is National Licorice Day. While this isn’t exactly an official “fresh pick” post, I will provide you with some interesting info on this confection:

Licorice (or liquorice) is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, from which a sweet flavor can be extracted. The licorice plant is a legume, related to beans and peas, and native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is a herbaceous perennial with long, purple to pale whitish blue flowers.

Licorice is a “good news and bad news kind of herb” which has been used to treat a multitude of ailments, including stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat and viral infections. While a review of several clinical trials found that glycyrrhizic acid, a molecule found in licorice root, might actually reduce complications from hepatitis C in some patients, there isn’t enough evidence to actually say that licorice can help with any medical problems…but it might cause a few. According to the National Institutes of Health, licorice has been linked to salt and water retention and low potassium levels. It can also cause an increase in levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to high blood pressure and (eek) may not be good for the libido.

That said, most licorice candies (especially those in the U.S.) are flavored with anise oil (a spice with a licorice taste) or made with a licorice root extract called DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice root) that does not contain glycyrrhizic acid and which is not associated with many of the adverse effects of licorice. But if you satisfy your sweet tooth on occasion with some real-deal licorice candy available at import stores or online, don’t panic. Levels of licorice root in a serving-size portion of candy are not as high as those found in herbal supplements, but limit yourself to a few pieces and avoid it if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.

When it comes to Twizzlers®, it’s actually sugar that you need to think about. Only the black (licorice) version contains licorice extract, minus the acid. One serving of the licorice or strawberry flavor—four pieces—contains 20-21 grams of sugar. That’s about five teaspoons of sugar per serving. Although you won’t have any of the bad biological effects from licorice root, you’re likely to have one heck of a sugar buzz.

Licorice officially now scares the bejesus out of me.

Empty container

Today’s post brought to you by the letter E and the number 0.

I was fortunate to have off work on Monday and, instead of researching ways to save the environment or writing letters to my overseas friends or even working on a crossword puzzle or two, I spent it watching five hours of “101 Favorite Stars Way Back When” on E! Entertainment Television. Normally, I wouldn’t admit something like this–especially since I am rabid against celebrity gossip and things of that ilk–but I’m baring my soul to about 4 people a week on this blog, so I’m not worried I’ll be judged, and it feels good to confess.

Does anyone remember Ilan Mitchell-Smith? He played Wyatt on Weird Science and he wasn’t on the E! program, but Weird Science was on HBO that same afternoon and I started wondering whatever happened to him. Did he turn out like Leif Garrett where he once was cute and clean and now he’s all puffy and still trying to resurrect his career? Well, yes, he’s puffy (at least in his latest posted photo online), but he’s completely dismissed all things Hollywood and has become an assistant professor of English at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.

That Ilan Mitchell-Smith is one smart cookie.

Today’s recipe:
Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestlé® Toll House® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Meme-alade? Meme-onade? Meme-osa?

Joon, you dirty-dirty, making me meme when you know how painfully shy I am. Kidding! My favorite hobby is talking about myself, so here it goes:

1. my: you’ve heard the saying, “i’d give my right arm for . . .”–so, what would you give your right arm for?

I would whore my right arm out in bits and pieces for a fully paid-for, enormous home in the ‘burbs and an apt in the city, and an endless supply of cash so that I need never work again and only be bothered having to follow around my butler, maid, personal chef, and trainer as they did everything for me.

2. me: what’s one word that describes how you want people to see you?

Compassionate (regardless of how I came across in above answer).

3. meme: if you could be any blogger, which blogger would you be, and why?

Toss-up: either Joon for her ability to use big words in perfectly formed sentences and knowing everything about everything (or at least coming across like she does) or Dooce for her incredible, dry wit and photography know-how (except I don’t want to live in Utah).

I feel compelled to keep the meme going only because I don’t want to be “that girl,” so Mags, Jen, and Ruben, please don’t kill me…and don’t feel obligated. I’d hate to come across as pushy, especially when my descriptive one word is “compassionate.”

May the organic produce be with you.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t exactly new, but I just came across it thanks to L who forwarded it to me on behalf of her friend C who I believe worked on its production. Please do yourself a favor and watch this…and beware of (organic) food particles that may shoot out your nose as a result.

Fork it.

Marc and I took a wonderful walk on Sunday through Greenwich Village. It was a rare, unseasonably warm day for April. I’ve been struggling with some obscure stomach virus for about 2 weeks–which didn’t stop me from having a bite at Peanut Butter & Co.–and was grateful to finally be out of the apartment. This is also a rare photo of Marc with a near-smile on his face, so I’m thrilled!

Yum, yum, yummy, yum, peanut butter, yum, yum. I love peanut butter, yummy, yum, yum, yum. This is my peanut butter song. Yummy, yum, yum.

Vive la French Toast!

Not many meals can give me such a warm and fuzzy feeling as French toast. Since childhood, I look forward to Sunday breakfast to include freshly-squeezed orange juice and thick, buttery slices of bread dipped in batter and grilled, leaving it oh-so-crispy on the outside and soft, warm, and gooey on the inside. It’s one of those meals that leaves me feeling so stuffed at the end of it, but sad that there’s no more when I’m done! As Italian as my parents were (both of them immigrants), French toast was always welcomed on Sundays. Back then, though, we had plain white bread instead of the brioche used in the recipe below. Over time, I’ve “sophisticated” my taste and am glad I can appreciate the heavenly goodness of the French toast I eat now, with all due respect to my mom.

Today, Marc and I celebrated two weeks since he quit smoking by heading over to our favorite brunch place around the corner, 7A. We used to have their French toast practically every week, but then we realized it wasn’t the healthiest thing to do, so it’s been a few months since we’ve been there…and, oh, how we enjoyed going back! I’m sure the recipe that follows is close enough to the awesome one they serve up, but I have to admit I’ve never made it myself as I’d rather walk 50 feet and have them serve me instead.

After our brunch, we quickly showered and took off for a day of shopping in the ‘hood. Memorial Day weekend, as most of summer, is fairly quiet here in the East Village, so we took advantage of going around town while everyone else was gone.

I was totally digging roaming about until we ended up in midtown, only to find out, apparently, that THIS is where everyone goes when they’re not at the beach. We ended up in H&M and Bed, Bath & Beyond, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared, with the exception that I spent nearly $300 and still never ended up with the vacuum cleaner we had set out to get in the first place. But, I have a really pretty camisole, and a nifty blazer, so who cares about a dirty apartment when I’m looking so cute?!?

Today’s recipe:
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6 slices brioche
2 bananas, ripe
1 stick butter combined with 2 Tbsp rum (or 1/2 tsp rum extract) warmed and melted over low heat, about 5 minutes

Beat first six ingredients in medium bowl. Dip each slice of bread into batter, coating both sides well. Grill in pan coated with 2 Tbsp butter or oil over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Serve with sliced banana and drizzle with rum butter.