If you work in an office setting, you know what it's like in the break room when a co-worker has a birthday, it's Friday and someone brings in a tray of donuts, or it's a holiday and you're celebrating with some sort of potluck.
I don't know about you, but it is insanely hard to stay healthy when working in an office. First of all, you are sitting at a desk all day with minimal physical activity, you are constantly tempted by the sweet treats brought in by others to share, and lunch usually consists of the quickest meal at the nearest fast-food joint.
It doesn't have to be this way. Sure, you'll still have to practice some serious self-control when your co-workers or boss brings in a store-bought birthday cake or tray of donuts and bagels, but it's so worth it to your body and your mind to stick with healthier choices.
Just take a look at some of the worst culprits when it comes to office snacks and treats.
No one thinks doughnuts are healthy, but this treat is super popular at meetings and I used to get excited when someone plopped a box of these on the table.
That was until I found out that commercially made donuts contain a lot more than just carbs and fat – they’re loaded with harmful additives, too.
A single frosted strawberry donut from Dunkin Donuts is slathered with high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils – an ingredient the FDA is considering to ban – and contains a slew of preservatives, emulsifiers, fake flavors and artificial color.
Some commercially bought donuts even contain butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a preservative linked to cancer. It’s not worth risking your health with these ingredients.
What to eat instead: Bring trail mix (made with raw nuts, coconut and dried fruit) or fresh fruit to your meetings so you don’t feel tempted if a doughnut box arrives. If you want to treat your co-workers, bring in some delicious homemade cookies - at least you'll know what's in them.
SUPERMARKET BIRTHDAY CAKES
How many times have you celebrated a co-workers birthday with a supermarket cake?
The ingredient list on most store-bought cakes is so long I literally have trouble keeping count – but I’ve seen close to 80 ingredients!
The majority of them are fake chemical fillers and food-like substances that are obviously not real food, and it’s nearly impossible to find one without artificial colors and partially hydrogenated oils. Most cake manufacturers use no real cane sugar at all and the whole cake is sweetened with genetically modified sugar beets (which will just say “sugar” in the ingredients) or high fructose corn syrup.
Some cakes also contain paraben ingredients, like propyl paraben, which is believed to be an endocrine disruptor linked to cancer.
What to eat instead: It’s ridiculously easy to make a cake from scratch and decorate it with organic candies, dried fruit, chocolate sauce and/or natural food colorings yourself.
FROZEN PROCESSED LUNCHES
I am so guilty of this. I used to think “calorie-controlled” frozen meals were actually a good way to stay slim.
I was wrong.
Just because they’re quick and low-calorie doesn’t mean you should eat it. I’ve never been in an office where someone doesn’t pop a Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice entree in the microwave for lunch.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these meals contain a shocking number of harmful additives. A single Weight Watchers Smart Ones Salisbury Steak meal contains sodium phosphate, partially hydrogenated oil, caramel coloring and lots of hidden MSG. None of the ingredients are organic or non-GMO verified and it’s full of sugar and corn-derived ingredients.
What to eat instead: When you cook dinner, make it a point to make enough so that you have leftovers. Pack it up for lunch the next day and freeze the rest in lunch-size portions to use later.
When it comes to microwave popcorn, everything from the bag, the oil, and the corn, is bad news!
Don’t believe for a second that the delicious popcorn smell wafting into your office is a good thing! Food companies might not want to publicize all the details about “artificial flavors,” but some emit possibly toxic fumes.
“Artificial flavors” are a secret concoction of ingredients that are not required to be disclosed, so you don’t know what’s really in them.
The flavoring ingredient diacetyl, which some major manufacturers eliminated from their artificial flavors, has been linked to lung disease among employees at popcorn and flavoring production facilities. We don’t know what these manufacturers have substituted diacetyl with and there’s the possibility that some brands still use it because it hasn’t been banned.
A possible substitute for diacetyl is “2,3-pentanedione”, which is linked to lung damage in animal studies. The bottom line is, you don’t know what you are ingesting when it comes to “artificial flavors” – so it’s a good idea to avoid them.
Some brands (like Jolly Time Healthy Pop and Pop Secret) still use partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a major source of artificial trans fat which is associated with up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths per year according to the CDC. To top it all off – some popcorn bags may be lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical linked to cancer, and the popcorn itself may contain harmful pesticide residues.
What to eat instead: Try homemade “Superfood Popcorn” with only three amazing ingredients: coconut oil, hemp seeds and red palm oil. Put it in a reusable bag to bring to the office.
A calorie isn’t a calorie when it’s made up of additives that affect how much you eat and the way your body metabolizes those chemicals. Low calorie beverages will not fight obesity, and if anything, the reliance on chemical-filled drinks just perpetuates the problem.
Despite what you might have heard, artificial sweeteners have been shown to stimulate your appetite, increase sugar cravings, and thereby promote fat storage and weight gain. Recent research links it to nearly tripling abdominal fat!
What to drink instead: Bring your own water bottle filled with selzer and fruit, or brew up a batch of iced Oolong tea with lemon and cinnamon to sip on all day long!
THE CANDY DISH
Every office has one. That dish on the reception desk with miniature chocolates or the bowl in the break room with a variety of snack sized candy bars and sugary treats.
How bad can candy be?
Too much sugar of any type in your diet can lead to dental cavities, weight gain and overall poor nutrition, especially if the sugary foods are taking the place of foods containing nutrients and vitamins. The American Heart Association says that women and men should consume no more than 100 to 150 calories per day from sugar, respectively. Sugar contains 4 calories per gram. If a candy bar contains over 25 grams of sugar, this is an entire day's worth for a woman.
A couple hundred years ago when sugar started to creep into the American diet, people only ate about 2 lbs per year. Today the average American eats over 150 pounds of sugar per year.
That’s 3 POUNDS of sugar per WEEK! The average American even consumes more than 40 teaspoons DAILY of sugar.
Imagine setting 40 teaspoons of anything in front of you. It’s overwhelming… and indeed it’s a scary thought!
According to the Rodale News, too much sugar also interferes with your body’s ability to feel “full” when eating.
This causes you to eat much more than you otherwise would.
Extra sugar is stored as fat in the body, so the connection is obvious. The more sugar you eat, the more you eat, period, and the more of those empty calories you consume, the more fat you store on your body.
So, do yourself a favor and stay away from that candy bowl on a daily basis.
What to eat instead: Bring in your own organic candies as a treat (don't overindulge) or make yourself a trailmix at home with some granola, dried fruit and nuts.
Most commercial chips, and this includes corn chips, potato chips, tortilla chips, you name it, are high in trans fat. Many also contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Fortunately, some companies have caught on to the recent media blitz about the dangers of trans fat and have started to produce chips without trans fat.
However, the high temperatures used to cook them can still cause the formation of carcinogenic substances like acrylamide, and this risk remains even if the trans fat is removed.
“Natural” chips are increasingly popular, but it’s important to realize that this means very little in terms of its health impact. A fried, genetically engineered corn chip is still going to wreak havoc in your body—even if it’s low in trans fat.
What to eat instead: It is possible to create a more "healthy" chip if you roast your potato slices in coconut oil instead of frying them. Or, instead of chips, try roasting zucchini slices or kale for a crunchy snack. Bring these along to eat with your lunch or as a healthier snack.
The takeaway is simple. Bring snacks and food from home to avoid dangerous ingredients and super unhealthy temptations. Your co-workers mean well by bringing in a treat to share with everyone, but that doesn't mean you need to eat what they offer.
You may think that "just this one time won't hurt," but if you continue to have that mindset, that one time will turn into a weekly habit that could add up to some serious pounds and damage to your body.
What is your weakness when it comes to office treats? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,
P.S. If you have a hard time with sugar cravings and will-power to say 'NO' when it comes to unhealthy snacks in the office, then you should try our SlimTea Capsules. It's a concentrated form of our Oolong tea which helps to curb your appetite and eliminate those sugar cravings. They are also convenient to keep in your desk drawer or purse - a quick & easy way to enjoy the benefits of oolong tea without having to brew up a cup.