Business of Well-being

Feed Me. Navigating the Calorie Jungle at the Restaurant

I've worked in offices, I know the thrill that comes on Wednesday mornings. It's bagel day, or donut day. And with that excitement can come overeating, too many carbs and a little bit of guilt. Offices have definitely cut back on what they are providing for their staff, but what is still lurking in the kitchen and how can we make it healthier?

My first suggestion to make sure your eating habits at the office are healthy is to make sure what you've eaten away from the office will sustain you. Try to make time for a hearty breakfast before you get in your car to zoom off for the day. Many people skip this essential meal but it is important for energy, thought processes and weight maintenance.

I suggest a morning meal that has a combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates. This gives you the best variety of nutrients, and long and short term energy supplies. A breakfast of eggs, cereal, toast, fruit, a meat, etc is a great start to the morning. I don't have to tell you how important it is to drink pure water throughout the day.

Most offices have a water cooler or bottled water available. Some also provide coffee, tea, juice and soda. I'm not opposed to coffee or tea; however, relying on caffeine to get you through the day may backfire when the afternoon crash occurs. Caffeine late in the day can cause evening wakefulness and anxiety, so don't depend on artificial stimulants.

And if you are adding artificial sweetener to your coffee or tea, it might be causing health issues. More about that later.Juice is a great beverage but make sure it's not just colored, sweetened water with some juice flavor added. Unfortunately pure juice is rather expensive and most of what you get in the store has very little fruit in it. Read the labels.

As you know by now, I'm not a fan of soda. Diet or regular, soda has no nutritional value and its consumption can lead to poor health. High fructose corn syrup has not only been linked to obesity, but may also be contributing to diabetes and hyperactivity. Soda is high in phosphorus which leeches calcium and other minerals from our bodies.

And artificial sweetener contained in the diet variety is a dangerous chemical. Numerous illnesses have been associated with these compounds including headaches and migraines, anxiety attacks, MS, seizures and it has been shown to decrease leptin production in the brain which tells us when we are full. If you are a sodaholic, please consider switching to a healthier habit.

And if you need to sweeten your coffee or tea, try a natural product like honey, sugar, xylitol or stevia (my favorite). There are always one or two staffers that practically live in the kitchen. They're always there, grabbing a handful of this or another piece of that. If this is you, why are you in there? Heading to the kitchen is a great distraction from our work which can be both good and bad.

I do encourage taking breaks, but munching through them is not the healthiest choice. If you find yourself wandering to the food area ask if you are really hungry or if you are bored, anxious, angry or just looking for a diversion. Many people struggling with weight realize that they eat to satisfy some other aspect that is currently unfulfilled.

Emotional eating can lead to weight and health issues. If you aren't hungry explore why you might be in the kitchen and what issues might need to be addressed. If you are hungry and need a snack, select fruit, nuts or popcorn as opposed to processed foods, cookies or chips.

Many conventional snack foods like Doritos contain MSG which is an excitotoxin and causes a negative reaction in sensitive people. Headache, heart palpitations, digestive issues, nausea and numerous other reactions might be associated with MSG consumption. (A list of about 40 can be found at Unfortunately MSG is often hidden in the ingredients as something else, like "spices" or "natural flavors".

If you are sensitive to MSG, make sure you avoid those hidden sources. For a list of pseudonyms for MSG see the website. As I mentioned before it's very important to take breaks throughout the day. And lunch time is no exception. I understand there are days when there is a deadline or something just can't wait, but making a habit of working through lunch and eating at your desk is an unhealthy practice.

Our digestive system works best in a relaxed environment so shoving food in your mouth as you're coding documents and stressing about a deadline is going to lead to stomach and bowel issues. If we're rushing through lunch we're also not chewing enough which is harder on our stomach. Take some time, relax for a few minutes, chew, and enjoy your food.

And, make sure what you're eating is real food and not a processed "frankenfood". It is much more convenient to choose a pre-packaged microwavable meal, but the nutrition is often not present. And many of these foods contain Trans Fats, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, additives, preservatives or ingredients that have been genetically modified.

We are not only getting subpar nutrition from these foods but the added components may be making us sick, fat and tired. Pack your lunch from your home or eat a healthier restaurant in town. We can see that better nutrition helps us to be more present, productive and healthy. Try changing your office eating habits. You'll feel better; and your body AND your boss will thank you.

Kathy Gruver recently wrote her new book The Alternative Medicine Cabinet which is available on her website:

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