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Goof-Proof Your Workplace

10 tips for a diabetes-friendlier work environment

Don’t let a lack of planning in the workplace undermine your healthful eating habits and diabetes management strategy. Here are ten goof-proofing tips I share with my clients. (Be sure to check with your diabetes care team before making any changes to your meal plan.)

1.   Set the stage. Make your office or workplace comfortable and convenient for self-care. Sure, a candy dish seems welcoming and fun, but if your hand finds its way from the dish to your mouth, it’s time to dump the candy. Instead, bring in flowers, photographs or something else that says, “This is my workspace.”

2.  Pack lunch. Having your lunch ready allows you to eat as soon as you’re hungry and eliminates the decision-making about what to eat. I find such power in this strategy that I pack my lunch even on days when I work at home. If daily brown-bagging seems daunting, set an initial goal of bringing lunch two or three days per week. Or, if you’re lucky to have a refrigerator at work, stock it with your lunch fixings for the week. (Read more working lunch tips.)

3.  Make lunch a party. Join forces with others who eat healthfully. Take turns experimenting with new recipes and sharing the results at lunchtime. For moral support, bring a “health buddy” when you eat out.

4.  Slow down. You may want to work through lunch, but that usually leads to gobbling food instead of savoring it. Don’t let your desk double as a dining table, or if you must, turn away work distractions. To treat yourself and your body right, sit down, slow down and savor every bite. (Learn more about mindful eating and diabetes.)

5.  Pack snacks on Sundays. Bring in five types of fruit on Monday, so you have a wholesome snack each afternoon that week. Other good choices are pre-portioned nuts, Greek yogurt, or hummus and veggies. (Get more tips about healthful snacks.)

6.  Stock up on emergency foods. These should shield you from the vending machine or greasy takeout when you forget your lunch, need to work late or are otherwise in need of a bite. Try some of these:

  • Pouches of ready-to-eat tuna or salmon
  • Whole grain crackers and single-serving packets of peanut butter
  • Tomato or vegetable juice
  • Meal replacement beverage
  • ¼-cup servings of nuts or trail mix
  • Low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, if you have a refrigerator

7.  Steer clear of the office goody-box. If coworkers, customers or others regularly bring in donuts, cookies, jumbo bagels or other tempting foods, stay out of the kitchen. Instead, keep your lunch cold with freezer packs, and use a thermos to refill your coffee cup.

8.  Just say, “No, thank you.” Whether your food pusher is clueless or a deliberate saboteur, a simple “No, thank you” should suffice. If you feel that you need more, use one of these strategies:

  • Sandwich “no” between two compliments. “It looks and smells delicious, but I’m going to pass. Thank you. You always bake such wonderful things.”
  • Throw the blame elsewhere. “I wish I could, but I promised my doctor that I wouldn’t.”
  • Ask to take some for later.
  • Ask for support. “I’m trying so hard to manage my blood sugar. Please help me by not offering snacks and desserts.”

9Chew gum in the afternoon. Chewing gum may help manage cravings for sweets.

10.  Move. Physical activity is no less important than healthful eating. If you’re stuck at a desk most of the day, take breaks whenever possible. (Learn more about exercises you can do from a seated position.) Track your steps with a pedometer or fitness band for motivation. Get up from your desk for one to two minutes every hour or so. March in place. Do push-ups against the wall, or simply walk around your desk. Get extra steps by using a restroom far from your office and walking to coworkers’ desks instead of phoning or emailing. Get outside when you can. The fresh air may give you an energy boost. 

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND, CHWC, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by WeekThe Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Diabetes Forecast and Kids Eat Right. She has a private practice in Newport News, VA. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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