Staying healthy at the office is a challenge for everyone. There is always someone who brings in sweet treats from recent travel, or it's someone's birthday and cakes are in your face. And then there are the catered lunch meetings where it's just sandwiches and cookies!
I've worked in offices for most of my career, so I can relate. But somehow, in the last few years, I have been able to master the art of staying healthy regardless of where I am. It's not about perfection, but it's definitely about being prepared.
Here are my best tips to keep you healthy at the office:
1. Up your snack game.
This will make all the difference. You must be prepared for those midmorning or afternoon munchies. Take fresh fruit, raw nuts and seeds, kale chips, baby carrots and hummus, a yogurt (preferably unsweetened and organic, or dairy-free coconut yogurt), or take homemade trail mix (I like to mix coconut flakes, goji berries, raw cashews, and other nuts/seeds/unsweetened dried fruit).
If you love granola/protein bars, make sure they're non-GMO, have few ingredients, less than 7 grams of sugar, and more than 3 grams of fiber and protein.
Lastly, I keep an emergency stash of dark chocolate for when the cupcakes come rolling in, and fruit or nuts won't make the cut to relieve my sugar craving.
2. Stay hydrated.
Keep a water bottle by your side and keep refilling it (with filtered water) all day and pack some decaffeinated herbal teas in your bag.
Need something sweet? Try naturally flavored sparkling waters, coconut water, a cold-pressed green juice (with less than 25 grams of sugar).
Need caffeine? Opt for green tea or kombucha — a delicious fermented tea that's great for your gut.
Note: Caffeine dehydrates you, so for every cup of caffeinated coffee or tea, you should have two glasses of water!
Whenever you start to get sleepy, or an unhealthy temptation comes along, get up and go for a 5- or 10-minute walk outside. Taking a mini-break to get some fresh air will help relieve the stiffness from sitting in front of your PC, will distract you from the goodies in the office, and will actually wake you up.
Multitask if you must during your walk (return those personal calls/texts), but get your mind off the sugar and caffeine that you just don't need.
If you're still tired after the walk, then go for a small cup of coffee or green tea, but don't forget your two glasses of water.
4. Do your research and try new things.
Take some time to look up the healthy restaurants near your office. Maybe you'll discover a new spot that you can suggest for the next office take-out, or your next lunch break with a co-worker.
Look through the menus, including your usual go-to lunch spots, and search for healthier options. They usually exist — you've just been stuck on getting the same things and haven't noticed.
Commit to step out of your comfort zone and try new options. Opt for protein and veggies, as the carb-heavy options can lead to an afternoon slump.
Start getting more involved in the office food ordering. In every office there is someone who takes charge and orders the office snacks and breakfasts/lunches for meetings. Go to them and express an interest in getting involved. Usually there's a decent budget, and swaps within that budget are welcome!
And the next time you and your co-workers are ordering food, speak up about where you should order from. You'll be surprised that others will be happy to jump on board.
6. Start an office competition
It doesn't have to be about weight. Be creative, and use one another to get motivated. Set a goal for the next three or six months, with monthly checkups for everyone involved, and set a good prize!
Note: I don't recommend doing shorter than three months as this can lead people to extreme dieting, which should never be the goal. Allow time for everyone to build new habits, join a gym, cut back gradually on sugar, etc.