Easy Diet Tips for Work
By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD
1. Skipping breakfast
Leaving home without breakfast...
Skipping breakfast may seem like a good idea to save calories but research shows that people who skip brekkie tend to be heavier than people who eat it.
The reason: breakfast skippers tend to overcompensate during the rest of the day, either by squashing hunger with fatty and sugary snacks and/or by eating bigger portions at mealtimes.
The golden rule: always eat breakfast and you’ll find it easier to shift those pounds whilst having more energy during the morning to help you concentrate at work.
2. Picking up breakfast on your way to work
Many people find it more convenient...
Lots of us pick up breakfast on our way to work, but if you don’t want to pile on the pounds, you need to choose carefully.
Starting the day with a Danish pastry and cappuccino can amount to almost 600 calories. Compare this with a bowl of branflakes, skimmed milk and a small banana for around 250 calories, and it’s easy to see which is the best to go for.
Good breakfasts for picking up on the way to work include a low-sugar cereal bar with a carton of pure fruit juice, a piece of fruit and pot of fat-free fruit yogurt or a toasted bagel with Marmite from the local café.
Alternatively, keep a box of cereal, bowl and spoon in your office drawer and pick up some skimmed milk on your way to work so that you can have breakfast at your desk.
3. Office biscuits
With nearly every meeting...
Having a plate of biscuits on the table and generous colleagues frequently buying mini flapjacks, chocolate rolls and biscuits are one of the biggest office temptations – and it’s hard to stick to just one.
At meetings, offer to take the minutes – it’s hard to eat biscuits and write at the same time.
Research also shows that the more visible sweets are – and the closer we are to them – the more we eat, so keep biccies as far away from your desk as possible (and preferably out of sight).
Meanwhile, try swapping coffee and tea for low-cal cup-a-soup – chocolate digestives and tomato soup don’t taste good together!
4. Birthday cake
It always seems to be someone’s birthday...
Birthdays at work means there’s always plenty of cake in the office. Ask for a small piece and leave as much cream filling and icing on the serviette as possible, or offer to cut the cake yourself so no one notices if you only have a slither.
Otherwise, simply work the calories into your daily allowance – a small slither of sponge cake contains around 250 calories.
5. The afternoon chocolate run
It’s hard not to take part in the chocolate run...
But with each bar containing around 250 calories, a daily treat during the week could leave you over a stone heavier after a year.
You can burn a few calories by offering to go to the shop yourself – that way no one will notice if you come back empty-handed.
If you can’t resist, choose something small like a Milky Way, 2-bar Kit Kat, Cadbury’s Crème Egg, small pack of Chocolate Buttons, Flake, or Ripple. Or get all your colleagues into healthy eating by swapping the chocolate run for a fruit run.
6. Working lunches
Yay, the company are footing the bill... but...
Huge trays of deli-style mayo-laden sandwiches and chocolate brownies are often ordered for working lunches and when you’re busy concentrating on work, it’s easy to forget just how much you’ve eaten.
Once the wrap’s been removed, put just four triangles on your plate and don’t go back for seconds!
Choose the ones with the least mayo and fill up on fruit (instead of chocolate brownies) and drink water rather than juice.
7. Buying lunch
That chicken and avocado sarnie or tuna salad...
Pre-packed bought lunches might look healthy but it may also be loaded with mayo. Lots of lunch choices can be packed with hidden calories and fat so get into the habit of checking the label before buying.
If you’re buying sandwiches that are made in front of you, ask for them to come without butter or mayo, have extra salad piled in and opt for wholegrain bread to fill you up.
Don’t just stick to sandwiches either. Try sushi, jacket potatoes with low-fat fillings or vegetable soup with a wholegrain roll.
8. The staff canteen
It might be a great place to relax with colleagues...
But many dishes are high in calories and fat – think bacon butties, sponge pudding with custard, fish and chips, creamy pasta!
Fortunately, there are usually some healthier options, too. Avoid pastry, creamy sauces, fried foods and stodgy puds. Instead, go for soup and a wholemeal roll, low-fat sandwiches, salads (without mayo or dressing), jacket potatoes with low-fat fillings and fruit salad.
If there aren’t many ‘healthy’ options on the menu, ask the catering manager whether it’s possible to provide more. They can only say no!
9. Restaurant lunches
Eating out at lunchtime...
Eating out can pile on the calories so it’s important to choose carefully. Don’t feel that you have to have all three courses when you’re entertaining or being entertained!
It’s perfectly acceptable to skip starters and desserts and have the main course only – or order two starters and have one in place of the main course.
A busy afternoon schedule or meeting gives you the perfect excuse for choosing sparkling water rather than wine.
Avoid all the extras like the roll and butter, fries, salad dressing, cream with coffee and after-dinner mint – they can easily add up to 500 calories before you’ve even started your meal.
Finally, compensate for a large higher-cal meal at lunchtime with a lighter, lower-cal dinner – and skip snacks on days when you’ll be eating out at lunchtime.
Constantly passing a vending machine...
Vending machines filled with chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks can leave you frequently thinking about fatty, sugary snacks.
Try to take routes that don’t involve walking past them and if you can’t resist, choose diet drinks or water.
Ask your human resources department about the possibility of getting healthier options in vending machines, too, such as fresh fruit, low-sugar cereal bars, unsalted nuts and seeds, smoothies and juices. Healthier workers mean a healthier profit for the company, so it’s in your boss’s best interest to help keep you healthy.
11. Afternoon munchies
Towards the end of the day...
Many of us have a bit of a slump mid afternoon and feel low on energy – and that’s when we’re more likely to be tempted by the office biscuits and vending machine!
Get round this by keeping low-cal ‘finger’ foods such as grapes, strawberries or cherry tomatoes on your desk to snack on. Or fill up on a couple of crispbreads with cottage cheese.
But if you leave food in a communal fridge or cupboard, label it with your name – and prepare for it to go missing from time to time!
12. Leaving or celebratory drinks and nibbles
Colleagues' birthdays, new jobs, engagements, weddings and house moves all often get celebrated with a few drinks and high-cal nibbles.
Dodgy, warm white wine in a plastic cup gives you a good excuse for having just one sip to toast your colleague. Or offer to buy the supplies yourself, so you can add lower-calorie diet cola and choose Twiglets, breadsticks, grapes and strawberries rather than crisps and peanuts.
Meanwhile, a boozy celebratory night in the pub after work is likely to be far more dangerous... so swap high-cal bottled beer, alcopops and creamy cocktails for dry white wine and soda or spirits with slimline tonic and don’t have more than two to three units if you’re a woman and three to four units if you’re a man.
13. The journey home
After a hectic day in the office...
You've had a long, hard day... hunger is likely to kick in making it all too easy to buy crisps, sweets or chocolate for the journey home from work.
The best solution is to keep sugar-free gum in your bag to chew on to keep your mouth busy.
14. Buying your dinner on the way home from work
When you’re tired and hungry...
It’s tempting to buy comfort food and treats when you pop into the supermarket on your way home from work. The best solution is to get organised at the weekend, making sure you have enough ingredients to make a quick, nutritious meal every night of the week.
Otherwise, always make a list of what you need and use the same store so that you get to know the layout. That way you can use the same efficiency as you do at work to get in, do your shopping and get out quickly without having to go ‘searching’ in aisles that are packed with fatty and sugary foods. Another alternative is try the healthier versions of ready meals. Have a few lurking in the freezer for when you get home late and don't want to cook.
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