Colette's Blog

January 1, 2009

The workplace is a dangerous zone—carb-wise. Here’s how to avoid the traps that lurk in most offices and other work environments.

It's your turn to bring the doughnuts for coffee break with your coworkers. It's your boss’s birthday and everyone's going out to a celebratory lunch. Its lunchtime and the only place nearby is a fast-food restaurant. You won’t have time at lunch even for fast food, and so you’re going to have to brown-bag it. You're working overtime and the crew wants to send out for pizza. How can you possibly stick to your controlled carb regimen and still survive at work? Answer: It’s easy—but it will take a little ingenuity and some advance planning.

Dealing with Coffee Breaks

The break-room vending machine is obviously 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 you morning coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea or herbal tea are better bets.

To avoid being tempted at break time, eat a good, 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. 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 such homemade snacks as hard-boiled eggs or celery sticks filled with cream cheese. Once you're beyond the Induction phase, your own controlled carbohydrate snacks such as nuts and seeds with some low glycemic fruits. And when it’s your turn to bring in the doughnuts, instead provide a healthy snack, such as a crustless quiche, that everyone can enjoy.

Lunching In

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.)

Lunching Out

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.

Working Late

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. Create an emergency stash of controlled carb snacks and bars so before you get to this dangerous point you can dip into it instead. When your coworkers are sending out for dinnertime food, go ahead and join in, making the best choice you can from the available menu.

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