The New Office Potluck
Allow nutritionists to upgrade your holiday work menu.
Even in our farm-to-table obsessed age, workplace fare hasn’t changed much. Donuts reign at morning meetings and bowls of candy still sit on receptionists’ desks. It’s a fat-and-calorie minefield for the fit.
To strike a healthy (yet festive) middle ground, we asked top nutritionists to breathe some new life into your office potluck. Here, a better-for-you BYO menu:
Instead of: Chips
Bring: Baked Sweet Potato Wedges
Potato chips and fries are cooked at very high temps, says Ryan Andrews, R.D., a fitness and nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition, and according to the National Cancer Institute, cooking foods at a temperature above 250 degrees Fahrenheit could produce acrylamide, a carcinogen. Swap for sweet potato wedges; puncture potatoes with a fork, microwave until fork-tender, 4 to 5 minutes; cut into wedges, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Instead of: Layer Dip
Bring: Citrus Avocado Dip
Avocado is a healthy, filling fat—and because of the satiety it provides, you’re less like to overeat it, says Maria Pagano, R.D., C.S.C.S., an Equinox Tier 4 trainer in New York City. So forget sour cream and heaps of cheese and opt for vitamin C from oranges, lemons and limes. You’ll reap skin benefits sans the calories.
Instead of: Pepperoni Bread
Bring: Veggie Pizza
Pizza can be a nutritious and satisfying meal when done right, says Andrews. Start with a whole grain crust, little or no cheese and lots of mixed vegetables. Take it to another level: “Add some lean protein like chicken or black beans to up the protein content and provide more satiety,” suggests Cassie Kipper, R.D., an Equinox personal training manager in Chicago.
Instead of: Caesar Salad
Bring: Cole Slaw
“Cole slaw doesn’t have to be swimming in mayo,” says Ilyse Schapiro, R.D. She substitutes Greek yogurt for added protein, or dresses with a zesty combination of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and spices. Toss it all in a generous amount of green and purple purple cabbage ribbons, matchstick carrots, and chopped broccoli and bell peppers.
Instead of: Cheese and Crackers
Bring: Roasted Chickpeas and Edamame
Cheese tends to be high in fat and calories, plus you have to eat quite a bit of it before you feel full. Chickpeas and edamame, on the other hand, are rich in iron, copper, folate, fiber, and protein, says Andrews. “Let's face it, Americans don't eat enough legumes.”
Instead of: Potato Salad
Bring: Avocado Egg Salad
Want a creamy substitute sans the mayo and the carbs? Kipper suggests trading mayo for mashed avocado and trading potatoes for high-protein, hardboiled eggs. “The saturated fat in the mayo is replaced by heart-healthy unsaturated fat in avocado,” she says. “It’s higher in its omega-3 and lower in sodium.”
Try: Fold together 6 hardboiled and chopped eggs, 1 mashed avocado and 2 to 4 tbsp plain nonfat Greek yogurt and season with salt, pepper and paprika.
Instead of: Meats and Cheeses
Bring: Grilled Veggies and Tofu
“Cold cuts are a processed meat—and most everyone would benefit from eating less processed meat,” Andrews says. Make more room for grilled veggies such portobello mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant. They’re delicious when layered on a sandwich with hummus, says Andrews. “Thin, extra firm, marinated and baked tofu adds nutrition and makes it more filling.”
Instead of: Sheet Cake
Bring: Fresh Fruit with Dark Chocolate Dip
Scrap the white sugar-laden cake in favor of fruit, which is packed with phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—all of which promote health, says Pagano. Then add the dark stuff: Chocolate with a high cacao content—70 percent or higher—contains more antioxidants like polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, not to mention iron, magnesium and zinc, she says.