Stress eating at work? 4 ways to eat healthy on the job

WATCH ABOVE: March is Nutrition Month and this year, the Dietitians of Canada are zeroing in on helping you eat healthier from 9 to 5. Global News health reporter Carmen Chai discusses the goal with registered dietician Kate Comeau.

You skipped breakfast, grabbed lunch from the cafeteria in between meetings and now you’re staring at the vending machine. Eating healthy while working from 9 to 5 isn’t easy.

For Nutrition Month this year, the Dietitians of Canada are zeroing in on eating on the job to help employees make healthy choices.

READ MORE: 6 misconceptions about nutrition and healthy eating

Kate Comeau, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the national organization, says that stress is a big part of the problem.

“This has an impact on many areas of a person’s health, but as a dietitian I see the effects on food choices at work,” she told Global News.

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“Studies show that stress increases the desire to eat for some people and the foods we choose to cope with stress tend to be high fat, sugary snacks. I rarely hear about someone who craves cucumbers when they are stressed. It’s usually cupcakes, muffins, candy and chocolate,” she said.

READ MORE: 6 (more) common misconceptions about nutrition

But there are things you can do to stick to mindful eating while at work. Here’s what to keep in mind:

Don’t skip breakfast: Rushing into the office and working through the morning on an empty stomach sets you up to make unhealthy choices by lunch. Simple balanced meals – such as a yogurt parfait, fruit smoothie or bagel with peanut butter – will hold you over so you aren’t binging on the daily special in the cafeteria hours later.

Don’t sip away your calories: If you rely on a jolt of caffeine in the morning, keep an eye on what you’re ordering. Large specialty coffees made with syrups and topped with whipped cream could pack as much as 17 cubes of sugar in them.

A large double-double has the same calories and more sugar than a glazed donut, Comeau warns.

READ MORE: The 41 most nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables

Try to fill up on water – it’ll keep you hydrated and it might even make you feel more alert. If it’s too plain for your tastes, spike it with cucumber, lemon or mint.

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Think before you bite: Before you put your change into the vending machine or take another cookie from the kitchen, ask yourself if you’re even hungry.

“The first thing I say to people when they tell me they are always craving food at work is to ask, ‘am I really hungry?’ If the craving is coming from stress rather than hunger, food won’t satisfy it,” Comeau says.

READ MORE: How much sugar should you be eating? How to follow WHO’s guidelines

If you’re bored or stressed, you’re better off taking a break. Take a deep breath, drink a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea, or sneak in a walk. Comeau says the craving will pass.

If you are hungry, though, reach for a snack like a banana with almonds or a homemade muffin.

Workplaces can chip in, too: If your break room is packed with boxes of donuts, or your team is constantly celebrating birthdays, retirements or baby showers with pizza and sweets, it can be hard to turn down these foods.

READ MORE: Why you should eat beans, lentils and peas to lower bad cholesterol

“As an employer, finding other ways to celebrate can mean a lot less cake for everyone,” Comeau says. Celebrate birthdays once a month, or when it’s lunchtime, encourage your employees to leave their desks so they aren’t mindlessly eating or gobbling down their meals. Encourage them to make use of their full break – that could include taking a walk outside.

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