It’s easy to make poor choices when you’re busy and stressed out. Dietitian Karissa Woolfe shows you simple ways to eat heathier at work.

Given you can spend around 60 per cent of your weekday waking hours at work, a significant amount of eating is done there. With a little preparation, you can make healthy choices to get you through the day, and keep your wallet fat and your waistline trim. Here are six common work obstacles that can stifle healthy intentions, and ways to overcome them.

1. It’s a colleague’s birthday… again

Did someone mention cake? Celebrating birthdays and farewells with cake is a tradition in many offices. But if you find there’s cake on offer nearly every other day, the extra kilojoules, saturated fat and sugar could steer your healthy eating goals way off track.

The office fix

Why not suggest a combined celebration at the end of each month? It doesn’t always have to be cake either. It can be a fresh fruit platter, homemade dip and vege sticks, or a pot-luck lunch where everyone brings a healthy dish to share.

2. Coffee run mid-morning

If you’re stuck in an office all day, the morning coffee run is a pleasant way to break up the time spent at your desk. But watch out – it can easily lead to a kilojoule creep, especially if the smell of freshly baked muffins has an irresistible appeal to your senses.

The office fix

Keep calm and caffeinate! Start the day with a high-fibre, protein-rich breakfast to help you resist high-kilojoule café treats. Stick to ordering a small coffee with trim milk and without any extras such as sugar and syrup flavourings.

3. Thirsty work

It’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re busy and meeting deadlines, which is why many of us become dehydrated at work. Brain fade, or feeling thirsty, often sends us searching for a quick sugar fix instead of a refreshing glass of water.

The office fix

Fill a large water bottle at the start of the day and keep drinking and refilling. If you need a nudge, set yourself regular reminders to down a glass. There are smartphone apps and tech gadgets to help too. Tea and coffee will also hydrate you, but know your caffeine limits and steer clear of sugary drinks.

4. The post-lunch energy slump

Leafy salads, instant noodles and cup-a-soups may be low in kilojoules, but they’re also low in protein, which means you’ll soon be feeling hungry and fatigued. When hunger strikes at 3pm, it’s all too easy to turn to the vending machine for a high-fat, high-sugar pick-me-up.

The office fix

Add protein to your salads, such as a hard-boiled egg, canned fish or grilled chicken, to keep you satisfied. Also, surround yourself with healthy cues. Put a bowl of fruit on your desk at the start of each week, and stash a variety of healthy snacks in your drawers, such as small containers filled with 30g portions of unsalted mixed nuts.

5. Oops, forgot your lunch?

No one functions well on an empty stomach, and if you work in a business district, you will be surrounded by fast-food meal options. It can be hard to find nutritious choices and these quick fixes can cost you up to $50 a week – even more when you add on coffees and snacks.

The office fix

Stock up on healthy staples to keep at work. When you’re at the supermarket, look for small cans of tuna, salmon, sardines, baked beans, spaghetti and soup that could be eaten with wholegrain crackers, bread or quick-cook grains.

6. Sitting, sitting, sitting

As well as making you feel lethargic and giving you bad posture, research shows, sitting down for hours on end has more serious health implications, such as increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

The office fix

Take regular standing breaks. Aussie researchers found that people who sat for eight hours saw improvements in their blood sugar and insulin levels when they walked for three minutes every half hour. Set a timer as a reminder to stand up every hour and stretch, and try to eat your lunch away from the desk.

Time-saving tip

Get ahead by preparing breakfast the night before. Transportable options include:

  • Bircher muesli
  • Boiled eggs with wholegrain bread
  • Homemade vegetable frittatas
  • Milk-based fruit smoothie
  • Tub of low-fat yoghurt.

Take your break outdoors

Evidence suggests that taking micro-breaks out in nature improves your concentration, inspires creative thinking, helps you recover from stress and mental fatigue and lowers blood pressure.

Quick ways to sneak in exercise at work

  • Clock up extra steps by offering to do the tea or coffee round
  • Move your bin away from your desk
  • Go for a lunchtime stroll or organise a lunchtime walking group
  • Stand up to greet colleagues, when in meetings and when talking on the phone
  • Download the Dance Break app (free on iTunes). Each day, an energising dance track will arrive on your smartphone, inviting you to get up and dance with your colleagues
  • Take one-on-one meetings outside and walk around the block
  • Refill your water bottle throughout the day by taking regular trips to the water cooler (and the bathroom!)
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift.