Bringing Nutrition to Your Office Setting, One Bite at a Time
November 26, 2013
by Aarti Arora, MPH, RD
A couple of years ago, a U.S. study found that office snacks can account for a seven-pound weight gain per year. A 2012 British study found that 42 percent of U.K. office workers gained up to 14 pounds from office snacks. Thinking through all the other work-related occasions we attend and participate in such as meetings, conferences, evening receptions, networking events, and traveling for work, chances are that other professional activities are potentially causing Americans to pack on more pounds beyond the office candy dish.
Here are 10 tips to incorporate indulgent-looking and delicious tasting nutrition into your corporate activities – without tipping the scale:
- Power up with Protein: Make protein be front and center at meetings and functions. For example, replace carb- and sugar-heavy breakfast pastries with egg whites and vegetable breakfast burritos to ensure your participants are fully focused.
- Keep it Interesting: Help break the perception of healthy food being boring. Explore different catering options – or challenge your current caterer – to experiment with interesting flavors to keep both nutrition and taste top of mind. Some examples include a miso-glazed salmon with jicama cabbage slaw or Moroccan chicken tagine.
- Bring Vegetables to Dessert: Utilize the 2014 trend prediction of adding vegetables to desserts. Vegetables can play a variety of roles whether it is providing moisture, helping to replace added sugar, and/or adding fiber. Some examples are pumpkin muffins topped with avocado buttercream, cucumber cakes, and zucchini cookies.
- Recipe Swap: If the restaurant or catering company you work with does not have menus that meet your criteria, you can ask them to trim the fat and calories by switching to lean cuts of meat, using low-fat milk in place of cream, and swapping rich dessert toppings with berries. Often you can find venues and catering companies who are willing to cook from recipes you supply to them.
- Make it about the Experience: Tableside food preparations are another forecasted trend for the New Year. For an evening dinner, make the focus on the experience by choosing a restaurant that provides tableside preparations such as Caesar salads with your choice of grilled chicken, shrimp, or mushrooms.
- Flavor Fuels Fullness: Research shows that packing in flavor helps generate fullness. Again, ensure the foods tantalize the taste buds, such as topping appetizers or entrees with complementing nuts, seeds, edamame, or oats to add texture. Or leverage the 2014 predicted trend of serving foods and drinks in “flights” by offering an appetizer flight of three different gazpacho “shots” topped with savory and spicy baked croutons.
- Creative Crudités: Always a welcome appetizer, get creative by offering different takes on this traditional raw vegetable platter with versions including uncommon vegetables like snap peas or lightly grilled asparagus and roasted eggplant. I have also seen trays presented as small gardens using mini shovels to dig out your selections (the “dirt” being a mix of edible dark vegetables, breadcrumbs, and puffed rice).
- Make Each Bite Count: Think through how each bite can count. For example, serve salsa and guacamole with baked chips made from beans or lentils, or pair cheeses with my personal favorites, broccoli and cauliflower stems, instead of crispy crackers.
- Slim & Trim: Attending meetings or evening work events, we anticipate receiving treats. Keep the treats on the table in more reasonable portion sizes, such as mini macaroons and small cans of soda; if you can swap out the soda for cans of naturally-flavored mineral water, even better. Bite-sized Baked Alaska presented on individual serving spoons were a big hit at a recent hotel anniversary party I attended.
- Presentation is Key: Adding a variety of color to your plate helps ensure we are getting a variety of nutrients; it also makes what we eat look more appetizing. Ensure that appetizers and entrees are generously garnished (or ideally loaded) with vegetables, and add seasonal fruits to desserts and cocktails in clever ways.
Making these simple shifts will not only be better for the body, but also the mind, as better brain food will help your colleagues, employees, and audience be more productive, energized, and engaged.
Aarti Arora, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian with 13 years experience in consumer food and drink public relations and event planning. Her current and past clients include food companies, commodity groups, restaurants, and health associations where she develops communications program, manages media campaigns and new product launches, and conducts nutrition marketing. Please visit Aarti’s website to learn more.