It starts out as just one trip to the vending machine. You're starving and didn't have time to make breakfast. But soon enough you are back there for your second snack fix and have to use all your willpower not to steal your co-worker's neatly prepared lunch. While others eat their balanced meals, you chow down on whatever snacks you can get your hands on. You know it's not healthy, but how do you put an end to this vicious cycle? iMag spoke to Embassy Suites Hotels' BusinessBalance.com expert Joel Marion to learn how to break bad snacking habits at work.

Most times, it’s not what we eat at breakfast, lunch, or dinner that puts the extra pounds around our waistlines, it’s what we eat at other times of the day. Mindless snacking and nibbling can cause inches to add up over time, and unfortunately, all too much of it goes on at the office. So, rather than let you deal with the temptation of daytime snacking all by your lonesome, I’ve compiled a list of 10 powerful strategies to help you both cope with and hopefully severely lessen your office snacking urges.

Tip 1: Eat Your Main Meals, Especially Breakfast

What’s the number one reason you’re likely to reach for a snack? You’re hungry! And unfortunately, hunger is inevitable for anyone who isn’t regularly eating their main meals, especially breakfast. Skipping the day’s most fundamental meal sets you up for mid-morning hunger and plenty of pre-lunch snacking. That said, most people simply don’t wake up early enough to enjoy a “real” breakfast; instead, they’re too busy rushing around in an effort to get out the door on time.

The Solution: Wake up earlier and give yourself the time you deserve to actually sit down and eat something. Believe me, waiting for lunch is a much, much easier task when you’ve already got a solid meal in your stomach.

Tip 2: Make Your Main Meals “Count”

Let’s say you are already in the habit of regularly eating breakfast and other main meals, but despite doing so; still find yourself hungry between meals fairly often. Well, the problem may lie in the fact that your main meals simply aren’t filling enough. Here are several tips to increase satiety in order to keep you satisfied right up until your next meal:

• Eat Low Caloric Density Foods

Some foods pack a ton of calories into a petite package (high caloric density foods), while others have a much lower caloric value per unit volume (low caloric density). For example, a large bowl of salad contains substantially fewer calories than a small McDonald’s hamburger, making the salad the better choice for promoting satiety and overall fullness without the additional calories that generally come with eating larger quantities of food.

• Don’t Avoid Fat

In addition to the many health benefits of “good” fats, fat just so happens to be the most satiating nutrient. Adding healthy sources of fat (such as nuts and oils) to any meal is a smart move for increasing that meal’s fullness factor.

• Get Your Fiber

It’s a known fact that foods high in fiber are more filling than those whose fiber content is lacking, so be sure to get a fair amount of fiber in each main meal. A fail-proof way to add more fiber to any meal is to simply add more fruits and veggies.

Tip 3: Clean Up Shop

Human nature being what it is, it’s not very likely that most people will choose the high road when tempting foods lie within a hand’s reach—sorry, but that’s the frank truth. On the flipside, if tempting junk foods aren’t readily available, it’s just as unlikely that we’ll go out of our way to make a knowingly unhealthy choice. This is the exact reason I tell all of my clients to clear any “off-limits” food items from their kitchens. And it’s the same thing I’m going to tell you about unhealthy foods at your office—get rid of ‘em. If it’s not available, it’s not a temptation.

Tip 4: Do Your Best To Steer Clear Of The Break Room

Does your office have a common coffee break room that is seemingly always stocked with goodies, be it a cake marking a co-worker’s promotion, the leftovers from an office luncheon or just an assortment of donuts, muffins, and bagels that evil people bring into the office each morning? If so, do your best to steer clear of the temptation by avoiding that area. Instead, bring your own coffee from home or stop off at a local convenient store for your morning cup of joe. Believe me, all the snacking that goes on in that room over the course of the week, the month, the year, adds up to a lot of unnecessary calories and pounds—pounds and calories that you could easily be avoiding by simply limiting the amount of time you spend in your office’s “snack room.”

Tip 5: Have A Planned, Healthy Snack

The term “snack” has a negative connotation, but when consumed as part of your healthy eating plan, snacks can be an invaluable tool for controlling mid-meal cravings. The key is to make sure that your snacks are planned, healthy, and controlled.

• Planned

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If it’s not planned, don’t eat it (with the only exception being high fiber, low-calorie veggies).

• Healthy

In order to be deemed a healthy snack, the foods eaten should fall into one of three categories: a fruit, a vegetable or a lean protein. Notice that I’m not recommending fats, such as nuts, as part of a healthy snack. This isn’t to say that fats aren’t healthy, not by any means, but for many individuals, fat proves to be a nutrient that is easily over-consumed in the context of a snack; therefore, it’s best saved for main meals.

• Controlled

In other words, don’t just mindlessly reach into a bag of grapes. Instead, pre-measure out an acceptable portion to avoid overeating. This way, once your pre-measured snack is gone, it’s gone. Going the other route can easily result in eating half the bag or package.

Tip 6: Enjoy A Tall Glass Of Water Or Green Tea

Still hungry after your snack? Try downing a large glass of water. The volume of the water in your stomach will help hold off hunger until your next scheduled meal. Perhaps an even better, more satisfying alternative is green tea. Green tea serves the same purpose as water in terms of filling the stomach with liquid volume, but also carries with it some unique metabolic and antioxidant health benefits without being as bland as plain H20. Just be sure that your green tea is calorie-free, and if sweetened, done so with Splenda or a similar sugar-free alternative.

Tip 7: Chew Sugar-Free Gum

Having a piece of gum in your mouth makes eating rather difficult, but beyond this simple truth, chewing on a piece of sugar-free gum may also help you avoid snacking in other ways. For one, according to Gil Leveille, director of research at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland , “chewing gum can help relieve stress, and mindless munching is often stress-related.” Additionally, Leveille and his team of researchers showed in their 2007 study that the simple act of chewing could also help curb cravings, reduce appetite, and promote fullness. Just make sure your gum of choice is of the sugar-free variety.

Tip 8: Brush Your Teeth

Another way to curb cravings and avoid post-meal snacking is to brush your teeth after each planned meal or snack. The fresh taste of toothpaste along with that “just brushed” feeling should help you stay away from food for at least an hour after brushing. The use of mouthwash post-brush will further add to this effect. Try this technique anytime you have the urge to snack in order to ward off cravings for the next 60 minutes or so.

Tip 9: Pay A Visit To The Company Fitness Center

Most of us get an hour or so for lunch, but the actual eating portion of our mid-day break is often accomplished in half that time. So, take the first half hour of your lunch break to consume a quality, healthy meal, and then spend the remaining half hour down at the company fitness center. If your office doesn’t have one, walk the stairs or go for a walk. Exercise, in addition to its many health and weight-management benefits, possesses some rather undeniable appetite suppressing effects. Getting a solid 20-30 minute workout in after lunch will help make mid-afternoon snacking even less of a temptation as you return to the office to finish out your workday.

Tip 10: Establish Specific Accountability

This just may be the most important thing you can do to avoid extra snacking throughout the day. When you make vague commitments such as “I’m going to try to eat healthier” or “I want to make an effort to watch what I eat,” it’s easy to snack and overindulge. These statements aren’t specific enough and their ambiguity will likely lead to very limited, if any, real progress. On the other hand, you can automatically create accountability by setting specific boundaries. For example, when you place an upper limit on your daily calorie intake or when you make a vow not to eat any unplanned snacks throughout the day, you establish clear-cut goals for yourself to live up to. Conversely, the “I’m going to eat healthier” statements fail to establish any real criteria for success, setting you up for failure. Try keeping a food diary to keep your food intake honest and on track. Get specific, get real, and enjoy the progress that comes with being accountable!

Joel Marion , CISSN, NSCA-CPT is the author of The Cheat to Lose Diet and more than one hundred articles for popular health and fitness publications. To download a free copy of his 15-page rapid fat loss report, visit www.JoelMarionCoaching.com

About BusinessBalance.com: BusinessBalance.com, developed by Embassy Suites Hotels, is a recently launched website offering practical advice for putting business travelers’ needs first, even on hectic work days. Embassy Suites knows that business travel can take a toll on one’s well-being and the expert counsel found on BusinessBalance.com provides techniques and tips to help visitors find and maintain their own balance– both on and off the road.

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