By Kari Wray, health coach at StayWell
The holidays are here, the time of year where those enticing food options appear much more frequently. Not surprisingly, one study has discovered that in the United States, weight gain begins to rise throughout October and November, peaking 10 days after Christmas.
As an employer, it can be frustrating to work hard all year building a culture of well-being and have it go by the wayside during the holidays. But employers themselves are also guilty of undermining that work and sending mixed messages by offering indulgent foods, treats, and less healthier options to employees.
Support, and don’t sabotage, healthy workplace eating habits by:
- Expanding catering options: Make it priority to include a mix of fruit and veggie platters, salads, and soups when ordering for group events or meetings
- Taking stock of vending: Assess vending machines in the workplace and ensure they have balanced choices, including whole grains and naturally flavored waters
- Thinking outside the box for celebrations: Instead of workplace receptions that offer cake or punch, consider organizing a community service event so employees can feel good about giving back (this also supports a culture of inclusivity for those with dietary restrictions or preferences)
- Reminding employees about events and expenses: Reinforce corporate policies so employees know the rules around alcohol and what is permitted and expensible
And follow these additional tips to take care of your own well-being in the coming months.
- Avoid eating if you don’t feel hungry
Just because food shows up in front of you doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Assess your actual hunger level before diving in. Don’t feel guilty about saying “no thank you, I’m not hungry”!
- Target healthy snacks for work and replenish your own stock
Focus on snacks that can satisfy cravings without making you feel stuffed. Celery sticks likely won’t help a lusting for chocolate, but a small cup of sugar-free chocolate pudding or a few dark chocolate almonds might do the trick.
Other healthy options include nuts, fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple, cantaloupe), veggie sticks and nonfat ranch dressing, pretzels and hummus, or apples with nut butter. What’s more, eating well throughout the day can also help with better sleep.
- Check restaurant websites for nutritional information
Preparing healthy work lunches is a commitment, and can be particularly challenging for shift workers. When food is ordered at work or if you plan to get takeout, look for the nutritional information many restaurants now publish online and in locations.
Lean towards those healthier options that don’t exceed your daily intake in one meal. When you do get a heavier lunch, consider splitting the meal with a co-worker or saving some for leftovers the next day.
- Stay hydrated and beware of loaded coffee drinks
Drink plenty of water during the day to ensure you’re not confusing hunger for thirst. If you’re into mochas, lattes, and the like, you could easily be adding 400 calories or more to coffee breaks (view nutritional information to get the exact details).
Avoid the sugary specialty drinks and order coffee black or with low-fat milk.
- Participate in your wellness program and get moving
Recent research shows that increased well-being program participation drives greater health risk improvement. Networking with co-workers that participate in the program allows you to connect with likeminded people and easily share healthy tips and ideas. In addition, some programs may have health coaches available that can help you meet specific goals.
Along with eating healthy, daily exercise is a crucial element of maintaining a healthy weight. Here are some small ways to mix in exercise, especially if you have a desk job:
- Go for a walk with a co-worker over lunch or request walking meetings
- Stand or stretch at your desk frequently
- Take the long way to the water fountain or bathroom
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park your vehicle at the far end of the parking lot
- Walk to a colleague’s office instead of calling or sending an email
- It’s okay to indulge yourself occasionally
Plan for the occasional indulgences. Enjoy the treats guilt-free, knowing that you have prepared by opting for healthy eating at work and at home the majority of the time. Sticking with a plan backed by sound strategies helps you stay on course and feel better in the long run!