The office break room is hell for anyone looking to make smart choices. While things have gotten better over the years, this can still be a black hole of pastries and sugar-filled coffee drinks, pop, and other treats that are best avoided. However, with a bit of willpower, you can stay strong, happy, and healthy despite how tempting it might be to cheat.
First off, there are some "easy" ways to tweak calorie counts and such, but I always feel like doing diet, low-fat foods just makes me feel like I'm missing something. Instead of feeling like you are missing something, try alternatives that are positive and taste great. If you disagree, that's your prerogative, but for the sake of this article, I'm going to avoid these short cuts since they don't work for me.
Some Quick Math on Calories ...
- Typical can of non-diet soda has about 150 calories
- Typical 6oz cup of cappuccino has only 30 calories (most people will have a 16oz with milk, making it 150 calories)
- Typical cheese Danish pastry has about 110 calories
- Typical glazed donut has about 255 calories
- Typical bagel with cream cheese has about 325 calories
By themselves, these numbers don't sound that high - though you may be surprised that your donut is actually fewer calories than the bagel with cream cheese! However, the real story here is that you need to burn 3,500 calories to eliminate one pound of fat. If you drink one can of non-diet soda each day, that amounts to 54,750 calories per year or 15 pounds!
Start With the Small Things and Create a Sustained Program
As you can see from the example above, little things add up fast and so the first thing you should do is look to move from that regular soda to water. Just plain water. Those flavored waters are mostly just soda with a different name on them. For instance, Vitaminwater still has 52 calories per 8oz serving and the 20oz bottle has 130 calories.
It's OK to try drinks other than water, but make sure that you check the calorie count and don't assume that since it SOUNDS healthy that it actually is.
Likewise, if you must have a bagel - skip the cream cheese and go for a flavored bagel such as cinnamon raisin bagel instead. It will have about the same calories but tastes great without adding butter or cream cheese!
Over days and weeks, you'll start to notice an improvement in your body by eliminating excess sugar and fat. That positive physical and emotional feedback should help sustain you.
Love Coffee? Avoid The Cream and Flavorings!
Black coffee has almost no calories. However, most Americans add flavorings, sweeteners, and dairy products to make it taste better. That's where trouble starts.
I'm not a fan of diet or artificial substitutes like soy milk or splenda. I prefer to focus on ways to make things simply taste better naturally and focus on those things. I feel that especially in office situations, many people feel compelled to add extra crap to coffee because the beans and machines used are terrible.
While not an easy solution, your choice might be easier if you were to ask your office manager to invest in a good machine to make tasty espresso (review) such as the Jura Impressa J9 machine. You'll also want to make sure to have high quality beans and avoid turning your espresso into capaccino or a latte by adding milk, flavorings, sweeteners, and other additives.
Bring Your Own Snacks (and package them for moderation)
Instead of feeling compelled to graze the break room table to see what treats were left there, bring your own healthy snacks. I'm not just talking about carrot sticks and celery, but pack a bag of nuts, berries, and dried fruit. The key here is portion control. Nuts are high in fat - but they also have protein and are often a great source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids too. Likewise, instead of bringing ranch dip for your carrot sticks, bring hummus. The key here is that it's a non-diet alternative that is good in moderation. While hummus has 25 calories per tbsp, ranch sauce has 64 and doesn't provide other benefits such as being a great source of fiber - something that will ultimately help fill you up.
Another great choice is pumpkin seeds. This is especially a great healthy choice for men since they are a great source of zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, copper, and iron as well as protein, vitamin E, and Omega-3 fatty acids. This translates into a snack that can help manage blood pressure, regulate sugar levels, help with digestion, reduce anxiety (magnesium), and even help improve sperm quality (zinc)! Plus frankly, I find that since you can't scarf them down, that eatting them slowly helps satiate hunger where as I might otherwise have grabbed a couple donuts instead.
It's really all about making smart decisions and never feeling like you are giving something up. The breakroom can be a challenge - but you can beat it!