Denver Bar Association
February 2011
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Wellness Brief: Eating Well at Work? Preparation is Your Weapon

by Gillian Walsh

When your weekly to-do list looks nearly as long as Craigslist, making healthy food choices might not find its way onto your daily agenda. Temptations in the break room, vending machines in the hallway, and candy dishes on your colleague’s desk certainly don’t make things any easier.

It may seem like a healthy diet and a busy schedule just don’t mix. However, there are a lot of facets of a hectic schedule that can make for a very healthy diet when a little planning and hand-to-mouth consciousness is involved. The on-the-go lifestyle often means, for example, that you are eating smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day instead of sitting down for a larger "square" meal. By simply swapping your pre-board meeting candy bar for a healthful granola bar, or that bag of chips for a baggie of homemade trail mix you prepared over the weekend, you can save yourself from the mid-morning crash, mid-afternoon drag, and eventual mid-life spike on the scale.

With all the things you need to accomplish in your day, keeping a food diary probably doesn’t seem too appealing. There’s no denying it will help you become more aware of the things you put into your body, but adequate planning over the weekend or the night before a day in the office will accomplish the same thing without the tedious food logging. Plan each day to include five or six small meals that are convenient, quick, and easy to make. Plan your dinners for each night of the week, making sure each one takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. Most healthy recipe websites, like cookinglight.com, have quick meal categories with healthy and budget-friendly options.

Beverages can quietly sabotage an otherwise healthy diet. Try to stick to water and limit the coffee drinks, sodas, and juices. You should be drinking 64 ounces of water each day, plus an extra eight ounces for every 15 minutes of physical activity. Have a water bottle with a printed measure on your desk and keep track of how much you drink.

Think about your colleagues who work with you. Chances are, with the same or similar occupation, most of them are just as busy as you are. Enlisting others in your quest for a healthier diet can make things easier and a lot more fun. Host weekly healthy meal lunch groups and explore the cafés and restaurants near your office that have healthy choices. Get together for "walking meetings," where you can discuss business while you’re getting your body moving. Get your board meeting catered by a custom salad store instead of the old reliable pizza place.

Transform your desk and the office fridge into your own personal health zone, equipped with plenty of foods to support your health goals. Keep in your drawer nutritious snacks such as almonds, dried no-sugar-added fruits, and whole grain, fiber-rich crackers. Stock the fridge with pre-cut, no fuss fruits and veggies, low-fat yogurts, or a healthy pasta salad you made over the weekend that you can portion into a mug for an easy and delicious snack. Keep your glove box stocked with protein-and-fiber packed granola bars that you can turn to when you’re bumper-to-bumper on I-25 or running late and can’t make that healthy breakfast you had planned on.

Preparation is the key to keeping the foods healthy and nutritious during the week when you don’t have space on your to-do list to include thinking about calories, carbs, and their effect on body fat. Set some time aside to plan, enlist friends and family, and create weekly diet-related goals that are attainable, sustainable, and measurable. When you’ve accomplished your weekly goal, monthly goal, or the overall healthful renovation of your diet, be sure to reward yourself with something special you can’t find at a grocery store or on a restaurant menu. D


Gillian Walsh is a personal trainer and nutritionist at the Colorado Athletic Club Tabor Center location.

Wellness Brief is a monthly column that will look at all aspects of health and living well and offer tips on how to bring well-being to your daily life. Is there a topic you would like to read about? Please e-mail suggestions to Docket Editor Sara Crocker, at scrocker@cobar.org.

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