Are office snacks making you fat?
Free food is a common perk in many offices these days, but eating on your employer's dime may come at a price: pounds gained. A study published in the journal Appetite reported that among employees at Goggle's New York City office, the number of snacks enjoyed was linked to the proximity of the snacks to the beverage stations. When snacks were located about 6 feet from the beverages, employees were 69 percent more likely to eat a between-meal bite, compared to when the munchies were some 17 feet away from the snacks.
According to the lead researcher, Ernest Baskin, an assistant professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph's University, "A male employee using a beverage station with snacks within close proximity will eat an average of 81 more snacks in a year. Using conservative values, that could add up to 2.5 pounds gained in the first year." However, a client of mine gained 10 pounds since landing a great job at a women's athletic apparel company about a year ago. After reviewing her diet, I found where those 10 pounds came from – the free office snacks.
Even though the snacks provided by my client's employer were seemingly healthier choices – miniature dark chocolates, yogurt-covered nuts and pretzels, dried fruit, energy bars and trail mix – a daily trip or two to the cupboard added up to hundreds of extra calories that eventually wind up on your waistline.
If you snack at work when you're bored, stressed or too busy to eat a real meal, there are ways to avoid beelining to the office snacks. Bring satisfying snacks from home, like one of these seven nutritionist-approved between-meal bites. They're nutritious, have no more than 200 calories, no added sugars and provide hunger-crushing protein and/or fiber:
- A medium apple (or small banana) with 1 tablespoon nut tutter (185 calories, 4 grams protein, 6 grams fiber). In one study, eating an apple before a meal was found to slash 187 calories from the meal, compared to meals when no apple was eaten beforehand. An apple on its own is about 100 calories, but to make it even more filling, partner with a nut butter.
- 1/2 cup 2 pecent lowfat cottage cheese with 1 cup strawberries (150 calories, 12 grams protein, 3.5 grams fiber). Compared to Greek yogurt, plain cottage cheese has less naturally-containing sugar, no added sugars and more protein. What's more, it's one of the best sources of the branched chain amino acid leucine, which is considered the most important essential amino acid for muscle-building and recovery post-exercise, according to several studies. Partner with fresh fruit for a boost of filing fiber to your mini meal.
- 1 cup grapes with 2 ounces low-fat cheese (200 calories, 14 grams protein). Red or green table grapes with cheese is a delicious and satisfying snack. Juicy grapes with their sweet-tart flavor are antioxidant-rich and calorie-poor. A cup has just 100 calories and low-fat cheese has a great protein-to-calorie ratio.
- 4 to 6 Sunsweet Ones prunes (100 to 150 calories, 4 to 6 grams fiber). Most offices have a candy bowl, but why not a bowl of naturally-sweet prunes? Sunsweet Ones individually-wrapped prunes will satisfy cravings for sweet, and they have just 25 calories each. They're a good source of fiber, essential nutrients and beneficial antioxidants.
- A serving of Amy's or Dr. McDougall's Organic Lentil Soup*: (130 to 180 calories, 8 grams protein, 6 to 9 grams fiber). Lentils are among the most nutritious, protein-packed foods available. And, according to a recent review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a serving of lentils daily can help tip the scale in the right direction. A cup of this protein- and fiber-packed soup will crush your craving and keep you satisfied for hours. (*Any soup with around 200 calories and >6 grams protein and >4 grams fiber is recommended.)
- 1 cup baby carrots (or any fresh-cut veggies) with 2 tbsp dip/dressing (170 calories, 3.5 grams fiber). According to the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, more than 80 percent of us don't eat the minimum daily requirements of three servings of veggies per day. Snacking on fresh-cut veggies and dip will help you reach your produce target. The satisfying crunch of carrots, sugar snap peas and bell peppers is a great sub for chips. And, studies show, serving fresh veggies with a dressing or dip, like hummus, that contains fat boosts the absorption of beneficial carotenoids and other antioxidants.
- One packet (about 1.7 ounces) of instant unsweetened oatmeal (190 calories, 6 grams fiber, 8 grams protein). Oatmeal is not only a great choice to start your day, it's a satisfying snack, thanks to the oat beta-glucan fiber and protein it contains. Studies show that enjoying a bowl of whole-grain oatmeal slows digestion, turns down hunger hormones, keeps you satisfied for hours and helps you eat less at your next meal.
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