How to lose weight while chowing down at work

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(MoneyWatch) Anybody whose work pants have felt snug after eating a bagel the size of a Frisbee for breakfast knows the score: Conference-room cuisine can be hell on your diet. Meetings --historically the enemy of office efficiency -- can turn weight watchers into weight gainers faster than you can say "can you pass the cream cheese?"

But whether you're a Fortune 500 executive or an intern at a non-profit, there are ways to ensure you eat well whenever you find yourself breaking bread in the boardroom. Here's how to stay trim on the job:

At breakfast
Your first goal should be to avoid refined, white carbohydrates. Choose whole fruit and whole grains that contain fiber and will keep you fuller, longer. "Then, add some protein to the mix," says Cheryl Forberg, a dietitian, James Beard-award winning chef, and former nutritionist for "The Biggest Loser" TV show. "When combined with carbs, protein will increase your satiety or fullness while slowing the release of blood sugar so your energy will be sustained and you won't feel like taking a nap after (or during!) that morning meeting." She recommends unsweetened Greek yogurt (more protein than the regular variety), hard-boiled eggs, or turkey or Canadian bacon.

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At lunch or dinner
Again, stick to whole grains, slices or wraps filled with lean proteins like roast beef or turkey, or veggies and hummus, suggests Lisa Kimmel, a dietitian with Yale University. "Watch out for calorie-laden tuna or chicken salads, and if the cheese isn't low fat, stick to one slice." She advises swapping full-fat mayos for low-fat or for mustard, sticking to veggie toppings on pizza, and using lemon dress your salad. If you have a buffet, she recommends filling at least half your plate with veggies (nix any creamy sauces), one quarter with a lean protein (skinless chicken, fish), and the last bit with a whole grain starch (brown rice, whole grain roll). Finally, never drink your calories. "Opt for water or a calorie-free, natural flavor-infused seltzer or sparkling water or unsweetened iced tea," she says. Over time, these small changes can add up to sizable results on the scale.

If all else fails
Eat as lightly as you can during work meetings and make a pit stop at the vending machine on your way back to your desk. "Vending machines are progressively adding healthier options, such as trail mix, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, and baked chips. If you still have a dinosaur machine with old-fashioned, unhealthy choices (such as candy bars and chips), nuts may be the best choice," Forberg says. Just watch portion control, since they pack a pretty big fat and calorie punch.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Ppsw

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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