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Hiding in plain sight – The dangers of office treats and “cake culture”

Cake

As we all know, one of the major perks of working in an office are the free snacks. But are these tasty treats as innocent as they first appear?

Beside the obvious dangers (i.e. choking while trying to eat as much cake as possible during your designated 10min break – R.I.P. Fat Tony, gone but not forgotten) most of us have not considered the long term damage these treats are doing to our bodies and careers.

Recent studies have challenged the well-established consensus that calories from office treats “don’t count”. Various Dietetic Think Tanks have made radical suggestions that calories from a lemon raspberry muffin eaten at the office are in fact equal to one eaten at home.

So what are the implications for you? Is it safe to eat that rocky road brownie? And how can you turn this to your advantage?

Office wars

Given the increasing social pressures to look good amongst your peers, your birthday is an excellent opportunity to fatten up your co-workers with generous treats, and therefore increase your attractiveness by comparison. You may have noticed some co-workers that seem to bring in treats at every opportunity (their birthday, their child’s birthday, pet's birthday, “fatten up Fridays” etc), they may already be a step ahead of you.

The health implications from frequent office snacking
  • Snacks are often very energy dense and addictive (when was the last time you remember craving a piece of broccoli, in comparison?)
  • Snacks often have little or no nutritional value.
  • Concentrated sugary snacks will make you feel hungry again in a short period once your bloodsugars crash back down, leaving you feeling even hungrier!
  • Nibbling non-stop increases the risk of tooth decay as every contact your teeth have with sugar will feed the plaque bacteria. Apart from losing weight your teeth will be another reason for keeping the snacks under control!
Here are my Top 10 'office treat' alternatives to help you and your colleagues stay healthy:*

*attempt at own risk

  1. Offer everyone hugs instead
  2. Announce your recent conversion to veganism and provide a 5L tub of gluten-free guacamole
  3. Bring in all the individual ingredients for cake, and suggest a team building exercise
  4. Weigh each co-worker first and personally distribute treats solely based on their BMI
  5. Donate to a Famine Relief charity (optional), while smugly explaining to your colleagues that this is where you spent the cake budget while handing out pamphlets
  6. Demonstrate that every occasion can be much better celebrated through the medium of interpretive dance
  7. Explain how you were born on a leap day and only need to bring in treats once every 4 years
  8. Save any empty treat boxes from the last celebration and just replace the empty boxes each time – blame the morning cleaners or an office rival for eating everything before they got a chance
  9. Simply eat treats in moderation as part of a healthy balanced and active lifestyle
  10. Food fight

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About the author

Cecilia Jaarsma

About Cecilia:

  • BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Qualified FODMAP trained dietitian and currently leading our FODMAP group programme.
  • Qualified fitness instructor and experienced advising on sports nutrition. Qualification obtained from Discovery Learning. Fitness Instructor Training – Post Graduate Certification.

Cecilia has worked as a dietitian for the past 9 years specialising in various fields such as oncology, gastroenterology, Nutrition Support and obesity. Continuous NHS service started in 2009. She qualified from the North West University in 2008 with a BSc Hons in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Continuing professional development in: gastrointestinal disorders, low FODMAP diet, nutrition support, diabetes, obesity, cognitive behavior therapy, Motivation, mental health and eating disorders, sports nutrition, cancer.

Cecilia is registered with the Health Professions Council and is a member of the British Dietetic Association. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutory regulated and governed by an ethical code to ensure they always work to the highest standard.

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