According to a recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, approximately 25 percent of adults are chowing down about 1,300 calories weekly on beverages, meals, and snacks that they purchase or get free at work. The researchers of this study found that coffee, soft drinks, sandwiches, pizza, cookies, brownies, salad, french fries, and potato chips top the list. Other than the salad, I am not seeing a lot of produce on this list.
With approximately 157 million American adults employed, the worksite, where we spend so many of our waking hours, has been shown to be a ripe place for a wellness program. Research estimates that medical costs can be reduced by about $3 for every $1 spent on worksite wellness programs, and employee absenteeism costs can fall about $2.75 for each $1 invested in the programs. Bottom line: Wellness programs can help workers improve their diets, reduce health care costs, and even improve the bottom line.
You don’t need to sell Fidelity Investments on the benefits of providing healthy food at work. About half of the options in its cafeterias are considered more healthy than the rest, and these items are discounted. Even better, anyone buying one of the health-conscious meals on Mondays and Wednesdays gets a free piece of fruit.
According to a Fidelity spokesperson, approximately 60 percent of the food items being purchased each month by employees are the healthier options, an increase of 140 percent since the program was launched seven years ago. Here’s the icing on the cake: Employees have raved about how this food program has “positively impacted their lives, helping them to lose weight, lower [their] cholesterol, and increase their overall health,” according to Fidelity.
If your employer hasn’t embraced healthier food options at your worksite as yet, here are ways to take matters into your own hands.
Adding 2 tablespoons of cream and a couple packets of sugar to your coffee will have you gulping about 75 calories per mug. Multiply that by several mugs of coffee a day, and well, you get the picture. If you need that creamy flavor, consider a cappuccino with low fat milk. The frothy milk makes it taste rich and creamy but without the cream. Top it with a sprinkling of cocoa powder to get a sweet flavor for less sugar. Not sweet enough for you? Angela Lemond, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman, suggests mixing in a tablespoon of the cocoa or adding caramel, vanilla, or chocolate extract to your cup of coffee.
Scale down the amount of turkey, tuna, roast beef, and/or low-fat cheese in between the slices of bread and pile on the vegetables, such as lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and sliced peppers to make a mountain of a sandwich with less saturated fat. Lemond recommends ordering your sandwich with whole wheat bread or a whole grain wrap to boost the fiber.
Switch up your pizza routine
Did you know that 13 percent of Americans eat pizza daily? Yup. It’s true. If you are one of them, try this trick: Eat a salad with plenty of veggies before you place your pizza order. After filling up on the salad, one slice of pizza will likely appease your hunger. Ordering pizza with veggies instead of meat will cut the calories further.
Don’t invite the bakery to meetings
Can you please tell me who is in charge of ordering the platter of cookies and brownies at those stressful weekly meetings? Let’s face it, when the going gets tough, the tough love bakery foods. Lemond empowers her clients to #StandUp4Fruit and demand to have a platter of fresh fruit swapped in for the cookies and brownies at meetings.
Lemond, who is a self-proclaimed lover of fries, suggests either limiting them to once a week or eating a half portion. Adding a less-starchy veggie side, such as salad, broccoli, or green beans will help to satisfy your appetite.
Chip away at healthy snacks
Before you go to the vending machine for that bag of chips, ask yourself if you are really hungry. Maybe you’re just bored? Go for a three-minute walk up and down the stairs in the building to give your mind a mental break and your sedentary body a metabolism boost. If you are truly hungry after the climb, a healthier snack choice would be peanuts, almonds, or even some high-fiber roasted chickpeas, which can now be found in savory flavors such as chili lime, barbecue, or cracked pepper. Your co-workers might even thank you if you can get these healthy snacks added to your vending machine selection.
Dr. Joan Salge Blake is a nutrition professor at Boston University and the host of the health and wellness podcast “Spot On!”