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Keep Your Diet on Track at Work

Wouldn’t it be nice if your work life would change to make watching your weight easy? In this fantasy, a gourmet salad bar opens next to your office and your favorite caloric snack suddenly
vanishes from the  vending machine.

In the real world, you’re always facing temptation and need smart, easy ways to stay on track. Here are some tips on how to stick to your diet.

Diet dilemma: Coworkers bring in treats.

If you’re trying to slim down, the last thing you need is easy access to candy or baked goodies a coworker wants to get rid of at the office. To burn off the calories in a handful of plain M&Ms, a 140-pound woman would have to walk briskly for 43 minutes. Focus on saying “no thanks” or limiting yourself to just a small sample. Avoid walking by the candy or treat if you can. For office birthday celebrations, as you take each bite of cake, ask yourself whether it’s still satisfying you. If not, why keep eating it?

Away from the Office

Here are three personal life diet dilemmas and solutions.

Diet dilemma: Your husband and kids love nothing but meat and dessert. Compromise. Give them their meat, but buy and prepare a lower-fat cut that you can eat too. Look for anything with the words loin or round in the name, such as sirloin or round steak. To balance the meal, make plenty of vegetables. According to Cathy Nonas, R.D., author of Outwit Your Weight. "From a nutritional standpoint, half your plate should be filled with vegetables."

Serving a green salad, peas and carrots, for example, not only gives you plenty of good stuff to fill up on, it helps educate your family's palate.. All you can do is expose them to healthy foods and hope they'll try them eventually. With sweets, let your family have their beloved desserts, but serve them alongside a plate of sliced peaches and plums, for example

Diet dilemma: You're going on vacation. Realize that you do have control over what you're eating, even when you're traveling. You can usually find restaurants that have at least some healthy menu options, such as vegetable soup, grilled chicken and fresh fruit. If you're flying, bring your own fruit or whole-grain cereal bars, or — if your travel time isn't more than a couple of hours —you could eat before you leave so you’re not hungry at the airport. If you’re tired, take a nap on the plane or at your hotel to minimize sleep-deprived noshing.

Diet dilemma: It's summertime and the living is easy. In the summer, all those three and four-day weekends filled with parties, cookouts and barbecues can add up to an overload of calories. When you're the hostess, you can prepare plenty of salads, vegetable dishes, fruit desserts and low-calorie punches to satisfy your needs. When you're the guest, "Volunteer to bring a fruit salad and the crudites platter," suggests Boston University nutritionist Joan Salge Blake. That way, you'll know there will be at least two things you can eat at the party.

You might also consider having a salad before you go to the party to take the edge off your appetite. Calories from alcohol can add up quickly, so stick with nonalcoholic beverages, such as sugar-free iced tea, diet soda or seltzer with a twist of lime.

If you commit to balance treat calories by eating less that night or stepping up your exercise program, you’ll think twice about indulging.

Diet dilemma:You often eat at restaurants or order in.

Even fast-food places offer healthy options such as a tossed salad with lite dressing, a baked potato or a turkey, roast beef or grilled chicken sandwich on whole grain bread. If your sandwich comes piled high, consider saving half for the next day. Meat portions in particular are often overly generous.

Steer clear of tuna salad (unless the menu specifies that it’s made with lite mayonnaise), chef salads (which often contain loads of calorie-dense meat and cheese), crispy chicken or fried fish sandwiches and any mayonnaise or oil-based pasta or vegetable salad.

Diet dilemma:You work (and nosh) at home.

If you work from home, easy access to the refrigerator and snacks can make sticking to your regimen more difficult.

Avoid the excess calories that come from grazing. Also, have a firm idea of what you’re going to have for breakfast and lunch rather than rummaging. If the kids are home for lunch, rather than just peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese, sometimes serve “mom food” such as chicken salad sandwiches with lite
mayonnaise and baby carrots dipped in fat-free ranch dressing.

Diet dilemma:Your work schedule is irregular.

Research suggests that working the night shift can make it harder to watch your weight. Our metabolism tends to slow at night. Night workers can beat this bodily slowdown, says Allan Geliebter, PhD, a Columbia University Medical Center scientist, by increasing on-the-job exercise, such as walking more during their shift.

Workers who rotate day and night shifts tend to wait too long between meals, becoming ravenous and making unhealthy food choices. “Instead, try to plan out what you’re going to eat ahead of time,” says Karen Miller-Kovach, RD, chief scientific officer at Weight Watchers International.

Sandra Gordon is a freelance writer.

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