Is Corporate America Keeping Us Fat?

Last night my wife and I were talking about our days at work, and something interesting came up in our conversation.

She said that every time something goes wrong or something bad happens at work, everyone gets an email saying they are ordering in pizza, getting an ice cream bar, or treats brought into the break room. I’m sure anyone who works for a company that has a break room/lunchroom can relate.

Going away parties, celebrations of timelines being met, holidays, etc = tons of junk food in the office.

It’s almost like they teach this stuff in management school or something.

“Did something bad happen at work? Feed the stress and emotions with junk food (because we can’t supply them with alcohol) to de-stress since most people have some form of an emotional eating trigger.” 

This is crazy!

While working at my internship for clinical nutrition rotations, I would see it all the time. Cookies, donuts, muffins, cupcakes, soda all in the break room for nurses, doctors and other HEALTHcare staff to enjoy.

What kind of behavior is this teaching us? It’s just like when parents give their whining kids a candy bar or cookie to shut them up – let’s keep those habits going into adulthood.

I find this very troubling and irresponsible.

Emotional eating is something most people struggle with to some degree. Even the most dedicated fitness buffs can succumb to it at some point in time.

So why does corporate America keep feeding into this problem? All while the costs of healthcare are rising, studies have shown that being overweight or obese leads to loses in productivity and ends up costing the companies more and more.

Why don’t more break rooms look like this?

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Obesity is associated with significant increases in absenteeism among American workers and costs the nation over $8 billion per year in lost productivity, according to a study recently published by Yale’s Rudd Center researchers.

So how do we go about changing this?

Easier said than done, but YOU can take your health into your own hands. We have two choices here – change the environment, or change how we react to the environment. Sometimes it may be as simple as bringing these issues up to management and asking for change – but most likely this won’t happen, as just because one person wants all the crap food gone, they wont change it for everyone.

So how to we change our reaction to the triggers in our office environment – especially for someone who is working really hard to lose weight and get in shape?

It all comes back to planning for the environment and how you will approach different challenges throughout the day.

  1. Kick the crap. Empty your candy bowl and get rid of chips, crackers, and other unhealthy snacks stashed in your desk. The less you’re tempted by junk food, the healthier you’ll eat. Especially at your own desk. You choose what you buy, and you choose what you keep there. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it there.
  2. Plan time for meals. It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re slammed at the office. Block off 30 minutes each day to walk away from your desk and eat a healthy meal. You’ll come back refreshed and re-charged.
  3. Bring leftovers. Make an extra portion when you’re cooking dinner each night, and you’ll have a healthy lunch to take to the office the next day. You’ll also save money by doing this.
  4. Plan your meals. Especially if you know there will be a potluck at work for your company will be bringing in food, coming prepared will help you avoid getting too hungry and indulging on unhealthy junk food that all your coworkers try to pawn off on you.
  5. Keep snacks at your desk. Forget vending. Instead, stock your desk drawer with fruit, packaged tuna, jerky, protein bars and nuts. If you have a mini fridge, stock up on fat-free yogurt, cottage cheese, fresh veggies, and bottled water.
  6. Bring in a water bottle. Start each day with a full bottle of water at your desk and make an effort to drink water often starting first thing in the morning. You’ll stay hydrated and energized.
  7. Choose balanced snacks. When planning snacks for work, choose snacks with a combination of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean proteins to boost your metabolism, increase energy, and feel fuller longer, such as an apple with a handful of almonds, or even a quick protein shake.
  8. Just say no, thank you. Just like grandma at Thanksgiving, your coworkers will always tend to push food in your face to fit in. You are an adult, and a simple no thank you I’m not hungry can save you hundreds of calories.
  9. Bonus: Be Active! Take a short walk during your lunch break, use the stairs, park further away, anything to get you moving more throughout the day instead of your usual trips to the vending machine or break room.

These are all things that you can control if you put in a little extra effort at home. It can save you from eating a ton of garbage, feeling groggy, and keep you on track for whatever your goals may be.

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Stay healthy my friends,

5 Wrongly Categorized Foods and How to Swap Them

 

“This is my lunch, isn’t it healthy?”, she says as she sips her coffee drink and chews a plastic looking nutrition bar at 2 in the afternoon.

After a few seconds of grinding the high fiber and sugar alcohol bar through her teeth, she mutters out, “I’m just really working hard to lose this weight, and my trainer told me to focus on getting more protein and limiting my sweets.”

 

In turn, you pose the question, “Oh yeah I totally understand, but is that enough food to be considered lunch?”

 

Probably not

 

The food industry is huge. The nutrition gurus and trainers dropping incorrect knowledge bombs might be bigger. Foods often get wrongly grouped into food groups, or just flat out are wrongly used relative to the overall goal.

 

You can’t blame the consumer here because companies marketing is so powerful, and if a commercial has testimonials and newly found fit people saying how they lost weight with a product, well that pulls on the emotional and relatable heartstrings of many.

 

Also, certain gurus and “docs” on TV tend to preach a lot about foods that will do this and that and then some, or foods that are super good sources of [insert nutrient here], that really aren’t the best option – but they do relate to the guest on his/her show that day, so what the hell.

The following are 5 instances where maybe a food isn’t inherently a bad choice, but you may just be using it wrong.

 

1) Quinoa – This super food and grain has really made a rise in the last 5 or so years. I didn’t even know how to pronounce it until 2 years ago (I always said kwe-no-a). Quinoa IS a great carbohydrate choice and a pretty good source of fiber (5 grams per cup).

“Hey is that a loofah?” – “No, it’s a qui-no”

 

However, it is NOT a protein for the sake of your meals source of protein.

 

One cup, which is a decent amount, only packs about 8 grams of protein, while containing 39 grams of carbohydrate. Not quite the protein your body needs in a meal.

 

Suggestion: Don’t ditch the quinoa, but make sure you are not counting it as your main source of protein in a meal. Add some meat to the side, or if you are not a meat eater try subbing out black beans for half the quinoa. The beans have the same carb content but twice the protein. Or there is always tofu.

2) Peanut/Nut Butters – same story as quinoa when it comes to protein content.

 

Often times peanut butter gets counted as a protein in a snack or even a meal. However, peanut butter is more of a fat than protein, and thus can pack on the calories fast.

 

One serving of peanut butter is two tablespoons (have you ever looked at how little this is? About the size of a golf ball!) and only contains only 8 grams of protein along with 16 grams of fat and thus close to 200 calories.

This is so sad, I don’t want to believe it.

 

Suggestion: Stick with lean deli lunchmeats for protein on sandwiches, and then load on the veggies too!

 

Instead of dipping veggies or fruit in peanut butter for a snack, try cottage cheese. A half cup of 1% cottage cheese has less than half calories that 2 tablespoons of peanut butter along with 14 grams of protein!

 

3) Protein Bars/Nutrition Bars – this is more of a quantity issue rather than quality.

 

These bars usually range between 120 – 300 calories. 300 calories is pretty low to be considered a meal, and 120 calories is a joke of meal.

 

The worst offender is the “Special K Diet” which contains the Special K Protein MEAL Bars – which only contain 180 calories, yet they have the nerve to call this a MEAL.

10 grams of protein in this meal! Careful, anymore and your kidneys might explode!

 

Also, watch the sugar and overall carbs on some of the bars if you are looking to keep it as a protein based snack. Some bars are loaded with carbs because they are meant to be post workout recovery snacks.

 

Suggestion: Keep these bars as snacks and workout recovery fuel, not meals. Your MEALS should be made up of whole foods, with good nutrition balance at every meal.

 

4) Chocolate Milk – “Chocolate milk is the perfect post workout recovery drink because of the optimal carb to protein ratio” – said Mike Gorski (2013) and a ton of other trainers.

 

While this notion does have some promise for high endurance athletes and intense frequent exercisers, most people don’t need the extra sugar post workout. The idea behind chocolate milk post workout is to optimize glycogen repletion after exercise. This is usually only necessary when exercising longer than 90 minutes at a decent pace (not a leisurely walk).

Chris Bosh is an elite athlete, your pickup games at the YMCA are far from elite…

 

Also, the protein content is just not enough for serious lifters who train using heavy weights (only 8 grams per cup).

 

Suggestion: For most people, eating a balanced meal within and hour of finishing their workout will suffice. For people training with heavy weights and looking for something quicker, a whey protein shake will provide more protein (aim for 20-30 grams) and follow up with a balanced meal an hour later.

 

5) Dried Fruits/Trail Mix – lastly we have one of the biggest lies in nutrition that just wont die.

 

Dried fruit doesn’t count as fruit. It is dehydrated, usually sugar coated, and super dense when it comes to carbohydrates. Trail mix is not a healthy snack either, as it usually has chocolate candies, more dried fruit, and then a ton of calorie dense nuts.

 

It is so easy to eat a half cup of trail mix, which can easily be upwards of 600 calories and 30 grams of sugar. This is not a snack, rather a full meal that fits in the size of your palm.

Snack sized, but not a snack

 

Suggestion: How about whole fruit. Makes sense, right? You get more micronutrients and phytonutrients, and it will actually fill some room in your stomach.

 

For trail mix, try making your own and leave out the candy and focus more on portion control and moderation.

 

Be sure you are reading nutrition labels and your foods are matching up with your goals. Don’t be eating snacks for meals, and meals for snacks. Make sure you are actually eating a high protein snack, and not just a protein-containing snack.

 

Food advertising and marketing can be ruthless and manipulative. Make sure you are staying informed, and working with a true professional that will set you on the right path with the right nutrition guidance.

 

Stay fit my friends,

 

 

 

 

SNAP Challenge – Day 1 Snack & Lunch

Before I go any further, I need to state that even though today is Monday, I am treating it like a Sunday since I don’t have any class until tomorrow. A lot of what I do today will prepare me for the week ahead, and therefore will require more time than most days.

Snack:

My first snack of the day was a half cup of fat free cottage cheese (added pepper) and the other half of the banana from breakfast along with 2 cups of water.

Snack #1

Snack #1

Snack Stats:

Prep Time: <1 min

Calories: 133

Carbs: 19 grams

Fat: 0 grams

Protein: 14 grams

LUNCH:

For lunch I made a large batch of quinoa, following the instructions from this site : http://www.eatingrules.com/2011/10/how-to-make-fluffy-quinoa/

I also quick soaked and made 8 oz of dry kidney beans. This took about 2 hours total, but didnt involve a lot of attention so I was able to do other things around the apartment while it was cooking.

Quick soak: Boil for 2 min, cover and wait 1 hour

Quick soak: Boil for 2 min, cover and wait 1 hour

Cooking soaked beans. Simmer, covered for 1 hour

Cooking soaked beans. Simmer, covered for 1 hour

My lunch today consisted of 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 2 oz of canned white tuna, and 10 baby carrots. (and 3 cups of water!) While this may not seem like much, it actually filled my up pretty well, and I will be having a pre workout snack about 2 hours after eating lunch.

Lunch...mmm yum...

Lunch…mmm yum…

Lunch Stats:

Total Prep time: 2 hours for everything to cook, but <1 minute once it was cooked.

Calories: 341

Carbs: 67 grams

Fat: 4 grams

Protein: 24 grams

After Lunch:

I put the other 2 oz of tuna in the fridge for later, along with all the cooked quinoa, and the beans. These will be used for future meals and will save a ton of time!