Healthy Eating at Work by Evelyn Tribole

My motto is "Breakfast: Don't leave home without it." Breakfast needn't be a big meal; a light morning snack helps keep you from being vulnerable to poor eating decisions later on in the day.

Overdoing the coffee is also a problem. Many people drink coffee at meetings to fight boredom. Slowly sipping one cup (eight ounces) of coffee an hour can result in drinking 8 to 10 cups a day. Keep in mind that if you use a coffee mug, you are likely drinking 12 ounces. Here are some strategies for curbing the coffee habit: 1. Be sure to arrive at meetings with breakfast or snack in your stomach. If possible, find out in advance who orders the food for the meetings, and request that fresh fruit, bagels, and yogurt be included in the menu. 2. Limit coffee to two cups (16 ounces) a day. 3. For a good night's sleep, finish coffee drinking by noon. 4. Consider switching to decaffeinated coffee. 5. Use nonfat milk rather than cream.

Business Meals and Cutting Deals

The goal of power meals is not power eating but rather accomplishing your agenda, be it creating new business or networking. Focus your energies on the conversation, not on what you are eating. How could you possibly savor your meal when your mind is focused on your business objective? So here's a good strategy: 1. Stick with simple, easy to-eat foods. 2. Order a lighter meal, such as grilled chicken or grilled fish. 3. Stick to your healthy restaurant requests.

Many of us have played the game of vending machine roulette. It's late afternoon, your stomach starts to growl and you turn to the vending machines. These are some of the best choices from the vending machine: 1. Pretzels 2. Fruit 3. Mini-box of cereal 4. Chocolate milk 5. Sunflower seeds 6. 7. Peanuts. If these choices are not available, ask the person responsible for stocking the vending machine if they can be included, or bring your own snack. Be careful of eating as a way to escape afternoon monotony.
Many people call catering trucks "roach coaches" but, in spite of this, continue to frequent them. The challenge here is that most foods are already prepared and wrapped to go; catering trucks are like movable vending machines. If you are a regular customer, make your requests for the next day so that they can be fulfilled by your traveling caterer. For example, request that a turkey sandwich be prepared only with mustard and no mayonnaise. Your best bets include nonfat yogurt, bagels, juice, and nonfat or low-fat milk.

Unpredictable Schedules and Eating Interruptus

Thanks to cell phones and beepers, you are often at the mercy of the caller. Physicians, fire fighters, on-call workers and others who may be needed at a moment's notice in a crisis are especially vulnerable. Such interruptions may make eating seem impossible. If you have an unpredictable schedule, try these strategies to get you through the day: 1. Keep a stash of healthy grazing snacks in your work environment. 2. Take advantage of the office kitchen if you have one; keep it stocked. 3. Remember not to go longer than five hours without eating.You may be working very hard to impress your superiors with your corporate work ethic in order to climb your way to the top. Beware of the following pitfalls at the office.

Eating Your Way Up the Corporate Ladder

Putting in long hours at work, whether by choice or demand, can do you in nutritionally if you are not prepared. On days when you know you will put in extra hours, plan ahead and stock your desk, briefcase, or company refrigerator with energizing grazing snacks or pack a double lunch. During unexpected late hours, take a food break. If time is so precious that you can't even make it to a fast-food place, have the food delivered. Not only does food fuel your brain cells, a food break can enhance productivity by allowing you to "unplug" for just a bit.
1. Eating in the executive dining room is not only a perk but an opportunity to network with key people in the corporation. Unfortunately, executive dining is not immune from unhealthy food. If possible, ask the chef to prepare your foods without the customary butter and sauces. If your company has an on-site wellness program, suggest the dining service work with it by offering at least one healthy entree.
2. Nothing beats the lunch-box blues like an office potluck or birthday party, but these events cause a lot of eating pressure. Consider bringing something delicious that just happens to be healthy. I'm always pleasantly surprised at how quickly fruit plates or veggie plates get devoured. When filling your plate, use the same strategy as for buffet dining: begin by taking taste-size portions. If you want to partake of the birthday cake or dessert, be sure to savor it. And if it tastes mediocre or disappointing, toss it.
3. "Thank you," says an appreciative client and sends you a tin of cookies. "Job well done," says a boss and gives you a box of chocolates. Obviously, you do not want to return their appreciation with ingratitude. Fortunately, the solution is easy: share the wealth. An occasional treat is not a health disaster for you or your colleagues, but don't pressure your colleagues into eating something they don't want either. A local food bank will accept any food offering.
4. Goody jars often invite people into your work space, which can be fun but also a nuisance or an unwanted distraction. If you are prone to mindless eating, your desktop is not the best spot for a treat jar. Keep food off your desk to help discourage mindless eating.
5. It seems as if one colleague or another is always helping their kids out by selling goodies as a fund-raiser. Give a donation if you feel inclined, but since the purpose of selling the treats is to raise money, giving money without ordering the goods is not in bad taste.
6. An after-work get-together can be a fun way to get to know colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere, but alcoholic beverages and accompanying appetizers can be a meal (or more) in themselves. Try ordering mineral water with a twist. Remember that the purpose of happy hour is to network and socialize with coworkers. If you drink alcohol, stick with simpler beverages such as wine rather than cocktails. Best bets for appetizers include nuts, popcorn, mini-tacos, pretzels, oysters, shrimp, and crab.

When You're on the Road

Sales reps, truckers, reporters and others who spend time on the road daily are subject to eating pitfalls. Fast food quickly gets boring and time sitting in a restaurant is a rare luxury. One of the most clever solutions I've heard was from a local television news cameraman who is constantly racing to the next news-making scene. He installed a microwave in his news van so that he can heat up nice meals no matter where he is!
Another strategy is to keep a portable cooler stocked with easy grazing snacks and beverages. Electric coolers that plug into the cigarette lighter offer the convenience of not needing ice, but you need to keep the cooler plugged in. Be sure to keep cash on hand for when you need to eat whether it's a healthy fast-food option, a smoothie, or a latte.
At the Airport
Logging frequent-flier miles doesn't mean an end to your healthy diet. But sometimes long trips or unexpected delays can make you vulnerable to both jet lag and meal drag. There's nothing worse than being stranded at an airport with the food stands closed while dinner is flying high without you. A delayed plane can mean a delayed or missed meal.
When the food court is open, you may find familiar foods with recognizable names that can be quite appealing while waiting for your plane. Eating in airports is similar to eating out. Fortunately, airport cuisine has improved considerably, with many healthful options for you to choose such as: portobello mushroom sandwich, sushi, veggie burrito, vegetable stir-fry, bean burrito and veggie burger.
1. Get in the habit of reserving a special meal when you make your plane reservations. Special meals often tend to be tastier and healthier. 2. When ordering a special meal, ask the agent for an explanation of the meal. Not all special meals are created equal; they vary from airline to airline. 3. When you board, let the flight attendant know that you have ordered a special meal. 4. Bring some standby snacks, just in case. Snacks that travel well include nuts, dried fruit and energy bars. 5. Drink one cup of water for every hour in flight to minimize dehydration. 6. Avoid adding fat such as butter or margarine to your roll. 7. For breakfast, opt for the cold cereal, which usually comes with fresh fruit and low-fat or nonfat milk. 8. If you are scheduled for a lunch or dinner meeting when your plane arrives, request either a special fruit plate or a light snack to avoid double meals. 9. Be sure to check your itinerary for meal service. Never assume that a meal will be served. 10. No time to order a special meal? Reserve your seat toward the front of the plane; you are more likely to have a choice of all meals offered before one runs out. 11. If you are traveling first class, be sure to make special requests when ordering from the first-class menu. For example, ask that your salad dressing be served on the side.

Excerpted with permission from “Eating on the Run, Third Edition” by Evelyn Tribole, a registered dietician who operates a private practice that counsels people on the art of eating healthy in spite of a hectic lifestyle. Available in bookstores, by calling 1-800-747-4457, or visiting