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5 Foods I Used To Eat At The Office That Made Me Sick, Tired and Overweight.

When I used to work in a busy office, I was exposed to a variety of foods on a daily basis that were sabotaging my health, weight and looks. Because I wanted to fit in and focus on work, I ate whatever everyone else around me was eating, and boy was that a mistake. Thankfully, I broke free from this mentality, started thinking for myself and taking back control of my food and health. Not only did I lose weight when I did this, my entire body changed. 

One of the first commitments I made was to start taking my lunch to work. Not only was it less expensive to do this, my health soared as a result. 

It all comes down to being prepared. Only you can control what you eat on a daily basis, and it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. I compiled a list here of 20 of my favorite foods to dine and munch on at the office. But first, I’m going to warn you about some of the most common office foods that you should stay far, far away from – as they are no good for your health. These are the foods I would eat because they were there. Sitting there in the office break room or on a co-worker’s desk calling my name! Eventually giving up additive-filled food helped me finally say “no thanks”.

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Don’t let your office be a breeding ground for food industry toxins! Get these foods out of your office for good:

1.  Microwave Popcorn

When it comes to microwave popcorn, everything from the bag, the oil, and the corn, is bad news! Don’t believe for a second that the delicious popcorn smell wafting into your office is a good thing! Food companies might not want to publicize all the details about “artificial flavors,” but some emit possibly toxic fumes. “Artificial flavors” are a secret concoction of ingredients that are not required to be disclosed, so you don’t know what’s really in them. The flavoring ingredient diacetyl, which some major manufacturers eliminated from their artificial flavors, has been linked to lung disease among employees at popcorn and flavoring production facilities. We don’t know what these manufacturers have substituted diacetyl with and there’s the possibility that some brands still use it because it hasn’t been banned. A possible substitute for diacetyl is “2,3-pentanedione”, which is linked to lung damage in animal studies. The bottom line is, you don’t know what you are ingesting when it comes to “artificial flavors” – so it’s a good idea to avoid them.

Some brands (like Jolly Time Healthy Pop and Pop Secret) still use partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a major source of artificial trans fat which is associated with up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths per year according to the CDC. To top it all off – some popcorn bags may be lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical linked to cancer, and the popcorn itself may contain harmful pesticide residues.

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2.  Donuts

No one thinks donuts are healthy, but this treat is super popular at meetings and I used to get excited when someone plopped a box of these on the table. That was until I found out that commercially made donuts contain a lot more than just carbs and fat – they’re loaded with harmful additives too. A single frosted strawberry donut from Dunkin Donuts is slathered with high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils – an ingredient the FDA is considering to ban – and contains a slew of preservatives, emulsifiers, fake flavors and artificial color. Some commercially bought donuts even contain butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a preservative linked to cancer. It’s not worth risking your health with these ingredients.

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3.  Soda

Most sodas contain high fructose corn syrup, natural flavors, and caramel coloring. When it comes to diet (low-calorie) soda, you’re still not doing your body any favors. A calorie isn’t a calorie when it’s made up of additives that affect how much you eat and the way your body metabolizes those chemicals. Low calorie beverages will not fight obesity,and if anything, the reliance on chemical-filled drinks just perpetuates the problem. Despite what you might have heard, artificial sweeteners have been shown to stimulate your appetite, increase sugar cravings, and thereby promote fat storage and weight gain. Recent research links it to nearly tripling abdominal fat!

4.  Supermarket Birthday Cakes

How many times have you celebrated a co-workers birthday with a supermarket cake? The ingredient list on most store-bought cakes is so long I literally have trouble keeping count – but I’ve seen close to 80 ingredients! The majority of them are fake chemical fillers and food-like substances that are obviously not real food, and it’s nearly impossible to find one without artificial colors and partially hydrogenated oils. Most cake manufacturers use no real cane sugar at all and the whole cake is sweetened with genetically modified sugar beets (which will just say “sugar” in the ingredients) or high fructose corn syrup. Some cakes also contain paraben ingredients, like propyl paraben, which is believed to be an endocrine disruptor linked to cancer.

5.  Frozen Processed Lunches

I am so guilty of this. I used to think “calorie-controlled” frozen meals were actually a good way to stay slim. I was wrong. Just because they’re quick and low-calorie doesn’t mean you should eat it. I’ve never been in an office where someone doesn’t pop a Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice entree in the microwave for lunch. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these meals contain a shocking number of harmful additives. A single Weight Watchers Smart Ones Salisbury Steak meal contains sodium phosphate, partially hydrogenated oil, caramel coloring and lots of hidden MSG. None of the ingredients are organic or non-GMO verified and it’s full of sugar and corn-derived ingredients.

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Stock up with these Top 20 Office Eats instead: 

1. Veggie sticks: This seems so obvious and simple – because it is! Even when working at home, this is my daily go-to snack. It’s easy to make some matchsticks of carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers or whatever raw veggies are your favorite. Pick veggies that are local, seasonal and organic.

2. Hummus This goes great with those raw veggie sticks, or you can also use this as a dip for crackers. I recommend making your own, as most store-bought versions contain preservatives and soybean or canola oil. Plus – it’s super easy to make! (Hummus Recipe & Beet Hummus Recipe).

3. Homemade “Superfood Popcorn”:  I make this easy and delicious popcorn with 3 amazing ingredients: coconut oil, hemp seeds, red palm oil. All popcorn is non-GMO, but choose organic to minimize exposure to pesticides. Get the recipe here and put it in a reusable bag like this to bring to the office. Also you can buy some ready-made store bought organic popcorn like the one from Trader Joe’s that is made with olive oil.

4. Trail mix:  Mix up your own with personal favorites like raw almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, and dried fruit. Walnuts in particular have been shown to enhance critical thinking skills which is essential to performing your best in the office. If you buy each of the ingredients separately in bulk bins at the grocery store (instead of pre-mixed packaged versions) you can save some serious cash.

5. Fresh fruit: This is nature’s convenience food. Bring along grapes, bananas, apples, peaches, pears, berries, ect. Stick with seasonal, local and organic. I also love to snack on cherry tomatoes at my desk because they are convenient and not messy.

6. Oatmeal: Make your own little packets of oatmeal with rolled oats, quick oats, cinnamon, and chia seeds. This is how I make oatmeal when I’m not at home.

7. Dates: These are full of fiber and nutrients, but they are super sweet like nature’s candy! Just one of these will satisfy your sweet tooth, and they’re super delicious stuffed with a walnut or almond butter. I also use dates to sweeten my oatmeal (dice it up and add it to the water before cooking the oats).

8. Parfait Porridge: This tastes like a berry parfait, minus the yogurt. The best part of this breakfast is the raw oat groats – as they contain more vitamins, minerals and nutrients than processed steel cut, rolled or instant oats. They are available in most health food stores inexpensively in the bulk section. It only takes a few minutes to put together the night before work and you’ll be super happy to have one in the morning for breakfast (I promise). I like to make enough to last about 3 days and keep them in the fridge for busy mornings. Get the recipe here

9. Almond butter: This is great with apples, bananas, crackers, or stuffed into a date. You can buy individual packets here, if you don’t want to keep an entire jar at the office.

10: Green tea and herbal teas:  I’m always carrying around tea with me, wherever I go, because I drink it every day. Stick with organic teas that don’t contain artificial and natural flavors and unnecessary additives (my favorite brand is Numi). I used this Breville kettle regularly when I worked outside of the home in an office to heat up water for my tea. Yes, I kept my kettle plugged in at my cubicle! (My cube mates loved using it too!) When you add up the cost of unhealthy and expensive alternatives (sodas and lattes), the cost of a good tea kettle is a no brainer and it pays for itself pretty quickly. This kettle can also heat up water for cooking oatmeal.

11. Kombucha: This naturally fermented drink made from tea is slightly sweet, tangy and refreshing. It also helps populate your gut with good bacteria, which can improve your digestion, strengthen your immune system, and may help you stay lean. You can also make your own kombucha soda at home on the cheap. 

12. Homemade Ginger Ale (or Seltzer Water with Fruit Slices): There’s no reason to ever hit up the soda machine in the break room anymore. If you crave the fizz, try packing some of my Homemade REAL Ginger Ale (recipe here), or simply marinate slices of lemons, limes, oranges (or other fruits) in some seltzer water for a refreshing drink. 

13. Salads: It’s super easy to pack salads in a glass container, just keep the dressing on the side (or at the bottom of the container) to keep the greens from wilting. You can keep a few in ready-to-go containers in the fridge. Add in some beans, lentils, hemp seeds and quinoa for extra protein and try my Melt in Your Mouth Kale SaladQuinoa Tabbouleh Salad, or Carrot Blueberry Sprout Salad recipes. One of my all-time fave salad dressing recipes is this Tahini Dressing (it will make a salad lover out of anyone). 

14. Sandwich WrapsYou don’t even need a recipe necessarily, as I often just spread some hummus on a sprouted grain tortilla and wrap up some greens, chickpeas or lentils, bell peppers, shredded carrots, and whatever fresh veggies are in my fridge. Adding some pickles or kimchi adds some spicy saltiness. Recipes to try: Chickpea Curry Wrap and Chicken (or chickpea) Salad Sandwich

15. Homemade Cookies: Yes – I said cookies! These are great for those times when you want to treat your office mates with something sweet and avoid the dreaded donuts and supermarket birthday cakes. The best part about making them yourself is that you can reduce the amount of sugar and control exactly what you put into them. Try baking some homemade Low Sugar Cookies or Forever Cookies

15. Golden Berries: These are nature’s little Sour Patch Kid, aren’t loaded with sugar and have 5 grams of fiber per ounce. You can buy them in most grocery stores and online here

16. Plain Yogurt: Before you leave for work toss in some fresh or frozen berries, banana slices, and if you like it a bit sweeter mix in some raw honey or maple syrup. Other great stir-ins are granola, chopped nuts or chia seeds. Just pack those separately and add them to the yogurt when you’re ready to eat. Always choose plain organic yogurt – here’s why. It’s also super easy to make your own yogurt, check out my mom’s recipe here

17. Brad’s Raw ChipsFor those times when you really want a crunchy chip, this is one of the best “good for you” chips on the market. Brad’s Raw Chips are made from raw and all whole foods – no gluten, sugar or added chemicals.

18. AvocadosYou can pop one open, and keep some salt and cayenne at your desk for sprinkling. 

19. Mary’s Gone Crackers or Pretzels: Stack these with avocado slices, bananas, almond butter or hummus – they’re very versatile and crunchy. Also great served alongside a salad for lunch. 

20. Green Smoothie: There’s a reason that this smoothie made the news – it’s both healthy and delicious! To make it quickly in the morning, wash and cut all of the veggies and fruit that you will be using the night before and store it in the fridge. That way in the morning you just pop it in the blender and pour it into a glass jar (like this one) to bring to work. You can even make smoothies the night before too and have them ready to grab and go. If you want added protein, blend in some hemp protein powder, hemp seeds, chia seeds or nut butters. Check out my favorite blenders here

No matter how busy you are, it’s possible to make a healthy lunchtime part of your daily routine.

I hear from so many of you that you lack the time in the morning to pack a healthy lunch for work, and don’t know where to start to make it simple enough to fit into your busy schedule. You find yourself hungry at lunchtime, with vending machines and fast food restaurants at every corner waiting to sabotage your goals. That’s why I created the Food Babe Eating Guide for you – check it out here.

Do you know a co-worker or friend that could use this info? Please share it with them.

Xo,

Vani 

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43 responses to “5 Foods I Used To Eat At The Office That Made Me Sick, Tired and Overweight.

  1. Thank you for this recipe. I used to work in an office – back when the tin can was still considered a novelty, when I’d still need a box of tissues every time Reagan made a television appearance, when American-made still meant something – I was a younger man. I started out as a junior analyst and slowly crawled my way up a long, jagged, moist ladder of women, money, and substances – all for the one thing that I thought would make my life complete – power. Little did I realize 10 years, 5 months into being a company man, I would find myself crawling around half naked on my hotel floor, gagging, half from the whiskey, half from the pure disgust that I felt every time I signed my name on a deal. So – I left for an indefinite vacation to Thailand and after a long winter of sobriety and self reflection, I reached a moment of clairvoyance – I needed healing. Finding and producing recipes like these are always moments of joy in my life – a dim star, lit among billions, and billions of galaxies.

    Good tips,
    h.l.

  2. super market birthday cake has to be the worst food ever…but its addictive!! if i ever am given left overs, i end up eating it all!! terrible.

    1. Oh my, I totally agree. There’s something in the sugar in supermarket b-day cake that make it purposely addictive! I used to work in an office of just 12 people. Every Friday, we were told we needed to bring in 4 dozens donuts for the staff which were ALWAYS gone at the end of the day. I mean, do the math on that one!!!!!

  3. I like to eat almonds, but the California drought is hurting the economy with all the excess water almond trees demand. Can you suggest a way that I can eat healthy nuts without drying out the state of California and sending all the water into the climate change?

  4. Dear Vari,

    oops, you did it again. Do you know why citric acid is called citric acid ? Because it (Quote Wikipedia):

    “… exists in greater than trace amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably citrus fruits. Lemons and limes have particularly high concentrations of the acid; it can constitute as much as 8% of the dry weight of these fruits (about 47 g/L in the juices[13]). The concentrations of citric acid in citrus fruits range from 0.005 mol/L for oranges and grapefruits to 0.30 mol/L in lemons and limes. Within species, these values vary depending on the cultivar and the circumstances in which the fruit was grown.”

    i.o.W. you recommending fruits while demonizing citric acid *again* demonstrates the profound non-knowledge of food science.

    Moreover, citric acid is THE entry point into the tricarbolic acid cycle (a.k.a. Krebs cycle) which is THE mainstay of energy production in ALL aerobic organisms (yes, that includes YOU). Practically everything you eat sooner or later ends up as citric acid, enters this cycle and leaves it as CO2 and energy.

    To put it simply: No citric acid and you die very soon.

    Once again, please stay to recipes and don’t touch science.

    sincerely,
    Thomas the food and biotechnologist.

    1. Just because citric acid is naturally in citrus fruits doesn’t mean that is where food companies derive their “citric acid” source from.
      Many times citric acid is derived from corn (ususally GM) so myself, being sensitive to corn, I have called a couple companies to find out where their citric acid is derived from and the responses I have gotten is that their citric acid is derived from corn.

      1. Do you know how citric acid is produced ? It is produced by Aspergillus niger fed with corn molasses. With your logic, you are prohibited to eat meat b/c in some cases cattle is fed exatly the same way, i.o.W. your meat is derived from corn. Sounds weird ? Is weird,

    2. Regarding your comment to me: I am aware that many cattle are improperly feed with corn, grains, etc. That is why I consume 100% grass fed beef. Interesting to me that in a previous comment you blasted Food Babe for recommending fruits and then “demonizing” citric acid which according to the quote you provided from Wikipedia is mainly sourced from citrus fruits. Then you later stated how citric acid is produced by “Aspergillus niger fed with corn molasses.”

      1. It doesn’t matter how the citric acid is produced or what it’s derived from; at the end of the day it’s purified into citric acid before it’s added to food. It shouldn’t have any traces of mold or corn or anything when you eat it. (Unless you’re against GMOs by principle, in which case, okay.)

    3. Nice job of butchering the truth yet again Tommy.

      GMO citric acid is what people are talking about here junior.

      Get with what we’re talking about on this site. Get the idea? It’s about GMO’s and the fake science that goes behind it.

      Not you nitpicky quasi-science wannabes that quote the junk science you get from Monsanto et al.. Who have no idea just how badly science is bought and paid for in this country.

      Wake up Tommy – before it’s too late.

      And what is your direct extension at the marketing department of Monsanto?

      1. Matthew, let me explain something to you. I am a food and biotechnologist with a scientifc record and I know how citric acid is produced and refined prior to use in food. You – apparently – have none.

  5. i just wanted to say that it’s really upsetting to read how grown adults have resorted to bullying the “food babe” because they simply disagree or don’t like what she’s saying. No need to start out a comment with “oops you did it again” which is immature and rude. You can have adult discussions and disagree without bullying.

    1. Wait you mean like when Vani Hari and her team call people who disagree with her shills? Or claim that they are paid to disagree with her? Or just simply ban them from her FB page because they use science to debunk her? Oh then there’s my favorite that they are obviously sexist because she’s a female.

  6. How about reporting on the pasteurization of raw almonds? Many probably don’t suspect they are taking in the chemical PPO when they choose a healthy snack like raw almonds.

  7. Hello Vani,
    I visited the “shop” part of your site to look for gluten free options for crisp bread or crackers because it is very hard to find any I would consider purchasing in the stores around my area (I have a sensitivity). I had found one a while back, but both of the stores that used to carry it no longer have it available. There is one option listed in “your shop”, but I do not like some of the ingredients. So I thought I might mention the one I had previously found (I now purchase it online). It is Le Pain des fleurs Crispbread. I purchase the quinoa, but it does come in other grain/seed combinations. It is USDA 100% organic, GMO free, low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium, kosher, gluten free, yeast free, dairy free, egg free, wheat, & soy free. All the ingredients listed are organic brown rice flour, organic quinoa flour, organic whole cane sugar (>2%), and sea salt. Also, the quinoa used in this product is Fare Trade. Not only all of that, they taste great too!
    Please spread the word around for those in the Foodbabe Army that need gluten free options.
    Thank you,
    Jillian

  8. Yes, I think Vani’s claims may not always be soundly based in science. Nor do I agree with everything she says.

    But I think her overall message is pretty clear: eat the best possible unprocessed, unadulterated food for your body. I can’t argue with that.

    And science is not always “the truth”. We can think of the wavering science regarding the consumption of eggs, saturated fats, coffee consumption, low-fat diets, etc.

    1. Yup, how about they way they told us that we should eat margarine instead of butter – now they say margarine contained trans fats which was even worse for us than saturated fat. Whoops! Sorry for causing so many of you to have heart attacks due to trans fats but we scientists thought we knew what we were doing. Oh well, back to the drawing board so that we can advise you of another food product you should be eating right now, then realize in a few years from now that we were wrong once again. And we’re supposed to trust these scientists when they tell us that GM foods are safe? Wonder how long it’ll take before they realize they were wrong.

  9. My husband loves Pop Secret, which kills me. I cringe when he’s making it. The worst part is, he gives it to our kids which makes my blood boil. I’ve been trying for a year to get him on a healthier track. Here’s to trying out your popcorn superfood!

  10. Hey Vani!
    Wonderful article as always!
    I’ve got one extra one to add to the list for snacks which you can have instead of crisps!
    It’s holy host scraps!

    It’s best for people who can’t have that much sodium and has minimal chemicals!

  11. First of all, I think everyone needs a little clarification. A calorie as it is commonly known isn’t actually a calorie. A calorie is the amount of energy needed to heat one milliliter of water one degree centigrade. The calories commonly referred to everyday are actually kilocalories, or one thousand calories. So, that 100 calorie snack is actually 100 THOUSAND calories. Also, the idea of “If you can’t say it, you probably shouldn’t eat it” is fundamentally flawed. Would you consume dihydrogen monoxide?

    1. I consume a lot of it every day, but most people just call it water. It’s also called water when used on the ingredients label in most all the labels that I have read before. I don’t worry with all those long chemical names. I stick with mainly natural ingredients and make 90% of my own meals at home. I stay away from processed foods and I buy as much organic foods as I can.

  12. Food Babe,
    I fully support your desire to help the world as best you can. Everyone should be as determined as you. There is no doubt that the FDA and companies such as Monsanto are too closely tied. However, it is very clear that you rarely list sources for your work, and if you do, it seems to come from non-peer reviewed documents. Thus, I think it is harmful and dangerous for you to share this information as you have become an advocate for a healthy lifestyle. You are smart enough to be dangerous, if you spread information without veritable research. Many people use the internet as a source for information, but you, as an advocate, may benefit from researching off-line and in-data, so to speak.

  13. I love you! You have helped me so much to get educated and get healthy and you continue to do so. And I love that your taking on the evil food giants who only care about making more money while they destroy our health and our planet. I bought your book before it came out and I love it. Please keep doing what you do. It is so important!

  14. Food babe,
    You write popcorn is NON-GMO?? This is incorrect, most corn products unless specified ARE GMO! Please clarify your statement.

  15. Holy crap, who would’ve thought that packaged popcorn, donuts, soda, cake and frozen meals would be bad for you? The man has been lying to us our whole lives. Open your eyes people!

  16. It is well known that if you play with big players money you are going to get burnt. Vani is facing the backlash of this, so obvious. Add the next ingredient of envious scientists, some probably paid off, because the cost of company sales losses is in the millions. Bottom line is 7simple you pissed off big money. Same thing with the tobacco lobby, meat lobby etc. If you need support then I recommend watching Cowspiracy because there’s an example right there. The love of money is the root of All evil, that was said thousands of years ago. Monsanto is also big money, and they are going to stuff anything and everything down your throat. It’s only when you take a sabbatical from processed food for some time that you begin to notice the effects.
    The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I get an immediate reaction when I eat or drink processed food. You don’t need a PhD to understand why those processed cookies outlast natural home baked they contain unnatural things that your body has to work hard to throw out. Good on you Vani Hari, not everyone can understand as their brains are overwhelmed by chemicals.

    Big money is faceless and impersonal, it works in the shadows, it doesn’t mind if it gets away with murder as long as big money gets even bigger. Like I said watch Cowspiracy and also add the documentary Earthlings. Big money considers any crime as long as big money can get away with it. Fall in line with big money dear citizens because big money is getting bigger with your kind help and to Ms. Hari it’s surprising that you got this far before big money got ticked off. For the
    Vox populi stay in the standard processing line, don’t dare challenge those impersonal big money gods, appease them with sacrifices of wealth and eventually your lives, they grow and grow and demand your flesh and own your sons and daughters.
    There used to be monopoly laws, not any more.

  17. There are a few good orangic soda brands out there virgls ,blue sky and hansens are 3 amazing orangic brands they can be tricky to find but still a good treat everyone and while

  18. I will have to print this post stick around my whole office! On a consistent basis people are eating the horrible food you mentioned above in addition to the occasional left over lunch from meetings including pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and cupcakes (so hard to resist free food).

    I guess the key is to come prepared to the office, well just anywhere, to avoid eating the toxic temptations.

  19. Hi FoodBabe,

    I just found your blog and love it… a breath of fresh air. I wasn’t able to post this on your Wild Salmon Cakes w/ Avocado Arugula Salad page, so I am posting it here.

    I have been collecting healthy, tasty salad recipes from around the web for a couple years and decided to start posting them on my blog so I can organize and share them easily. I added this recipe and will probably add more of your salad recipes.

    Just wanted to let you know. Here’s a link to my post: http://www.mariasalad.com/wild-salmon-cakes-with-avocado-arugula-salad-recipe/

    Thanks again! 🙂
    Maria

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