The workplace is a dangerous zone—carb-wise. How do you overcome the lure of doughnuts at coffee breaks, fast food lunches and tempting treats in vending machines?
Answer: It’s easy—but it will take a little ingenuity and some advance planning. Here’s how to avoid the traps that lurk in most offices and other work environments:
Dealing with Coffee Breaks
The break-room vending machine is often full of sugary soft drinks, cookies, candy and other high-carb snacks. The coffee cart adds doughnuts, muffins and pastries. Don’t even consider them! Also, remember that too much caffeine intake is not good either. If you have already had your morning coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea or herbal tea are better bets. Keep a water bottle at your desk, and drink from it frequently.
To avoid being tempted at break time, eat a filling controlled-carb breakfast before you go to work. If mornings are too rushed to prepare a nutritious meal, have an Atkins Advantage Bar or shake until you can get to whole foods. Even non-breakfast foods are good alternatives. There’s nothing wrong with starting your day with leftover chicken and salad from the night before, or take that leftover chicken and scramble it up with some eggs, spinach and cheese. A breakfast with sufficient protein and fat not only sets you up for a positive and productive day, it keeps you from experiencing an energy dip and being ravenous by mid-morning.
That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a morning or afternoon controlled-carb snack. Good, convenient choices include wrapped individual cheese portions or bring in homemade snacks such as hard-boiled eggs, ham roll-ups or celery sticks filled with cream cheese. Once you're beyond the Induction phase, you can add snacks like nuts and seeds, as well as some low-glycemic fruits. And when it’s your turn to bring in the doughnuts, instead provide a healthy alternative, such as a crustless quiche, that everyone can enjoy.
You should be able to get a suitable lunch at the company cafeteria. Skip the fried foods, sandwiches and desserts. Instead, scrutinize the hot entrées, the salad bar and the grill section for good controlled-carb choices. Ask to substitute extra veggies for high-carb sides. Or exercise a host of options by bringing your own meals. If a refrigerator is not available, pack your homemade lunch in an insulated bag or small cooler. Transport tuna fish, chicken or egg salads in plastic containers; green salads can travel in a zip-strip plastic bag with dressing on the side. Baked chicken legs, slices of roast beef or turkey and steamed shrimp are also highly portable. (These foods work equally well if your job involves frequent car travel.)
When dining out with coworkers or a client, you should be able to find plenty of alternatives to carb-heavy foods on the menu of just about any restaurant. Instead of something breaded or fried, order a baked or broiled dish. Ask to substitute extra veggies or a salad for starchy side dishes such as rice or potatoes. Pass on pastries and other sweet desserts; instead, choose berries with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Business lunches used to routinely include alcohol, but in today's work environment it's perfectly acceptable—even preferable—to skip the booze. While alcohol is not that high in carbs, mixers often are. Moreover, your body burns alcohol for fuel before fat, so that drink will slow down your fat-burning process.
Sometimes fast food is all that's available or all you have time for, but it's difficult—although not impossible—to get a good controlled-carb lunch at many of these places. Your best option at a hamburger restaurant is to order a couple of cheeseburgers (banish the buns) along with a side salad, or to try one of the larger lunch salads. Pass on the French fries. No matter how pressed you are for time, don't skip lunch—you'll only be more tempted to eat carbohydrates later in the day when your energy level nosedives.
Overtime carbs may be the hardest of all to avoid, especially if you weren't able to plan ahead by packing dinner or an extra snack. As your workday stretches out even longer, your level of stress rises—as does your desire for something sweet or crunchy. Keep an emergency stash of controlled-carb snacks, like Atkins Advantage bars, on hand, so that healthy choices are at your fingertips before you get too ravenous. When your coworkers are sending out for dinnertime food, go ahead and join in, making the best choice you can from the available menu.