Move that candy dish off your desk to cut back on sugar

  • A candy bowl in a communal space can be challenging.

    A candy bowl in a communal space can be challenging. Thinkstock.com

 
Updated 8/17/2016 9:56 AM

Q: Can something as simple as removing my candy dish at work really make a difference for healthy eating?

A: Research suggests that convenient and visible candy on office desks can influence people to eat more candy, thus consuming extra sugar and calories. So eliminating those prompts to eat even when not hungry can help limit those extra calories that can add up day after day.

 

One study, for example, found that women ate more than twice as many pieces of candy when it was highly visible in clear dishes on their desks than when candy was less visible in opaque containers on their desks, and even fewer when the candy was six feet away. The women in this study underestimated how much they'd eaten when the candy was on their desk, and did not have that added problem when they had to get up to get the candy. That may be because it's so easy to unconsciously grab a piece of chocolate or other treat when it's right in front of you.

A candy bowl in a communal space can be challenging. It takes work, but you can train yourself to adopt habits like eating treats only as a dessert at a meal or only if you take a treat back to your desk and savor it. Other strategies may be to ditch the bowl on the desk, keep a healthy snack like fruit at your desk and get candy only by walking to a vending machine or waiting to get it on your lunch break. These new strategies can help you cut back without the mental baggage of making something "forbidden."

It's worth considering whether grabbing candy has been a mindless habit or whether you are relying on that candy for more energy or to de-stress. If you need an energy boost, try getting up and moving every hour or so. If you turn to candy when stressed or as a reward, consider nonfood options like taking a minute to look at a favorite calming picture or do some deep breathing, perhaps even using one of the many free phone apps available to help.

Q: I've heard that lettuce varieties have different nutritional value and some aren't worth eating. Is that true?

A: Yes. And no. Pale lettuce like iceberg does make a crunchy bed for salads that can include other higher nutrient packed foods.

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Other types of lettuce do provide more vitamins and phytonutrients than iceberg.

A cup of Boston or Bibb lettuce provides more than six times as much beta-carotene as iceberg, and dark green or red leaf lettuce contains even more -- about the same amount that's in half a small carrot. These lettuces are also high in lutein, another carotenoid that links to eye health. One cup of romaine gives you more than 80 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin A and more than half of vitamin K. Romaine also contains the B vitamin folate that helps maintain healthy DNA and may play a role in protecting against cancer.

• The American Institute for Cancer Research is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.

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