12 Ways to Eat Better at Work

Following your diabetes eating plan at work is tough under the best of circumstances. It's even more challenging when you face common on-the-job food pitfalls.

Minefields likely lurk around the office to thwart your healthful eating mission: the always-full candy dish, vending machine alley, frosted birthday cakes. With a little planning, you can eat healthfully at work. Use these tips to get started:

  1. Nix nibbling where you work. Your desk is not a lunch table. Put aside your work and take a few minutes to relax and enjoy lunch away from your desk.

  2. "Don't let yourself get too hungry," says Joanne Lichten, Ph.D., R.D., author of Dining Lean (Nutrifit, 2007). "That just sets you up to eat even more." Try packing fresh fruit or veggies to munch on to calm late-day munchies or premeal hunger pangs.

  3. Get creative in the cafeteria. Mix cafeteria offerings to assemble a healthful meal. Switch your sandwiches to whole grain breads and lean meats. Request mustard instead of mayo. On the side, skip the fries and potato chips. Instead opt for celery and carrot sticks to satisfy your desire for crunch. "If more healthful items don't exist, speak up," Lichten says. "Talk to the cafeteria manager to find out what goes on behind the kitchen doors. Ask to see the nutrition facts labels on prepared items."

  4. Move more. "Climb stairs and take a roundabout way to meetings and the copy machine," says Charlotte Hayes, M.S., R.D., CDE. "Accumulating even 10 minutes of activity at work helps make that 30-minute goal more achievable."

  5. Veer away from vending machines. If snacks help you control your blood glucose and weight, bring healthful choices from home. Further avoid vending temptation by taking alternate routes around the office so you don't even see the machines.

  6. Stay hydrated. Sip water or other calorie-free drinks at your desk.

  7. Dodge candy bowls. If it's yours, get rid of it. If it belongs to a workmate, bypass it.

  8. Stash a nutritious cereal bar in your desk or briefcase. Never skip a meal. When there's no time to eat, grab the bar to prevent a glucose nosedive.

  9. Brush your teeth or chew gum. "A minty mouth reminds you not to munch," Lichten says.

  10. Factor in festivities. Offer to bring a healthful item, such as cut vegetables or fruit with yogurt dip, to workplace celebrations.

  11. Brown-bag it. Eat more healthfully and save money by brown-bagging all or parts of your at-work meals and snacks.

  12. Do your research. If you and your coworkers decide to eat out occasionally, be in the know on calories, carbs, and other nutrients by checking out the nutrition facts on the restaurant's Web site ahead of time. If portions are huge, enlist a coworker to split an order or save half for tomorrow.

Hope S. Warshaw, M.S., R.D., CDE, BC-ADM, is a dietitian, diabetes educator, and writer who has counseled thousands of people with diabetes to make realistic changes in their eating habits. She is the author of several books, including the American Diabetes Association's Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating (3rd edition), Complete Guide to Carb Counting (2nd edition), The Diabetes Food and Nutrition Bible, and Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy (2nd edition).