Julie Wilcox Interviews NYC Top Nutritionist, M.D., Jana Klauer
Over the years I have taught yoga to many corporate clients at their companies. It became clear to me that many workplaces make it tough for their employees to eat healthily, especially for those who lack nutritional knowledge and willpower. Through a discussion with Jana Klauer M.D., a top New York City nutritionist, I wanted to share some thoughts about how corporate worker-bees can improve their food intake given the environments in which they spend most of their days. The following interview illuminates several solutions to how professionals and their companies might collaborate to improve everyone’s diet.
JW: Hi Jana. Tell me a bit about the clients you see.
JK: Most are just like you and me: professionals combining work, family and entertaining. Eighty percent of them have full-time jobs and many are CEOs.
JW: What is the biggest nutritional trap of corporations?
JK: All offices are different. Office candy jars, food in desk drawers, and lunchroom food can be problematic. But the biggest problem I see is that people want to excel in their jobs, work very hard and as a result, they skip meals. The typical pattern is skipping lunch, eating snacks from the vending machine in the afternoon accompanied by a diet soda, and a late dinner. This kind of schedule leads to the sacrifice of nutrition and unhealthy eating habits. It might interest you to know that vending machine usage is highest in the afternoon between 2pm and 6pm. People will grab what they see and won’t consider the nutritional value of what it is they are about to consume.
JW: Why would they eat without consciousness?
JK: Because they get very hungry! When we go for more than 4 hours without food, hormones are produced that are powerful hunger signals. Our willpower is diminished by our hunger drive. They might know something is not good for them, but they are starving so they just eat. Or they just don’t know what’s really healthy because many things, especially snacks, are marketed to seem as though they are nutritious when they truly are not at all nutritious.
JW: What do you recommend that companies can do help their work force?
A wonderful thing would be to keep fruit available for people; apples and oranges for example, not just packaged snacks. If a company has a refrigerator, they should stock it with low-fat string cheese, yogurt, and raw vegetables. There are also packaged nuts made by Diamond, each of which has 100 calories. These are very popular and good. I’m looking at one right now: Dry Roasted Almonds.
JW: Is oil added to them?
JK: Nope. They have seasoning and that’s it. There is also a kind that is rolled in cocoa, not dipped in chocolate, but dusted with cocoa, which gives people a sense of something indulgent.
JW: How would you answer to people who might not find your suggestions to be satiating options?
JK: Well, I’m not suggesting just one of the options alone. They can have a piece of fruit and a yogurt (Fage 0% or 1%) or fruit with some string cheese, which is more filling.
JW: How many pieces of cheese would you suggest they have?
JK: They can even eat two pieces if they want to.
JW: I am going to play devil’s advocate. What If people don’t like plain Fage? To me it doesn’t taste very good unless I add honey, walnuts, and cinnamon, so I just stay away from it completely because by the time I am done making it taste good, I’ve created a caloric monster.
JK: Stonyfield Farm makes a low-fat vanilla yogurt that is a good alternative. Terrific Greek yogurts are Oikos and Chobani: the Greek yogurts have more protein, about 15 grams versus the 7 grams in Stonyfield. If they eat yogurt but need a topping, they should go for berries or just a little honey.
JW: A lot of people these days claim to be lactose intolerant.
JK: Well, yogurt is good because it has organisms that consume lactose, which makes it more easily tolerated. Usually people with lactose intolerance can actually tolerate a little yogurt. But if they really cannot have any dairy, nuts are the option. Justin’s organic portion controlled peanut butter on an apple is a nice way to go. Justin’s comes in a little 2 Tablespoon package so people can’t overdo it. Oh! And, what if at work they kept 100 calorie packages of Wholly Guacamole in the refrigerator, which they can eat with carrots or any kind of crudité?
JW: How do you feel about bars and which ones do you recommend?
You want to eat things that are good for your body and don’t have a lot of preservatives.
JW: I only eat Peanut Butter Cookie Lara Bars.
Lara is a nice one. There’s one called That’s It at Whole Foods, which comes in all different flavors. One I like has apple and 10 cherries; just smooshed up somewhat dry fruit. These are great for kids too. The Gnu bar is good if someone needs or wants a bar high in fiber.
JW: My clients tell me they see colleagues eating several bars a day. I would never recommend more than one. Would you? I don’t believe in doubling up on anything.
JW: How should corporate professionals structure their food days?
JK: They should always eat breakfast.
JW: At what time because I find that a lot of people eat breakfast super early before work so that by 10am or 11am they are hungry. Then they snack before lunch, which I don’t believe in doing. I always suggest to wait until 8am or even 9am for breakfast so that people can make it to lunch.
JK: True. I see frequently that people eat breakfast early and remarkably early before commuting. People have to work with their own schedules but 8am is a good time to shoot for. The body works best when you eat about every 3-4 hours and you definitely don’t want to be constantly grazing.
JK: Early at 6pm-7:30pm. If they are not going to get home until late, then they need some veggies or yogurt to hold them over.
JW: Sometimes if I know I have a late dinner out, I will eat a salad at home with a light dressing of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and then just order a main course for dinner. I suppose folks can do the same at work.
JK: That works and yes, olive oil and vinegar are just fine.
JW: Other suggestions for a healthy day?
JK: Drink water, stay hydrated. Don’t drink soda, not even diet soda.
JW: Do you agree that there could be a stronger movement towards getting companies to invest more in health and wellness/nutritional programs like lectures and such? With better education and eating habits, not only will people feel better and therefore be more efficient, productive, and intelligent at work, but they will get sick less often, which means that there would be fewer absences and lower health insurance costs?
JK: Of course. It’s key. I spoke to a company about five years ago. I ran into a woman on the street sometime after who had been at my lecture. She remembered my suggestion to get off the bus or subway a stop before hers to walk the last few blocks to work. She said she never forgot this. Those kinds of things can add up to 1-2 miles a week of extra movement and exercise.
JW: Do you think that it would be beneficial for people to bring their own lunch to work such as salads and soups or to go to the same place each day if they don’t have the time to prepare something before they leave? When I worked corporate jobs, I always liked knowing that I had my couple places to go to where I could order pretty much the same nutritious meal each day to maintain a healthy diet?
JK: Some can take lunch with them but many don’t have the time to prepare it. Some companies have good cafeterias and some places have good restaurants around them depending on where we are talking about. People need to read and know the menus and see what’s healthy before they decide whatever it is they are going to eat. Essentially, lunch is fuel and you want to put good fuel into your body so that you can think well.
JW: What would you advise for those who are obligated to go to many work lunches?
JK: I would tell them not to go for breadbaskets.
JW: And if the menu is a set menu?
JK: If the menu is a set menu, they should ask for options off the menu such as fish and salads. I was at a lunch the other day and a gentleman sitting next to me got what was being served, a huge slice of meat! I asked for a fish option and when the plates arrived I told him that his serving was too much for him! Can you imagine sitting next to me at one of these things?
JW: What did he say?
JK: He replied, “Isn’t it right? Like the size of your fist?” I said, “No! That’s for veggies. Meat should fit into the palm of one’s hand.”
About Jana Klauer
Dr. Klauer is a New York City based physician whose clinical expertise in nutrition, metabolic adaptation to exercise, and biology of body fat regulation has made her one of the country’s leading authorities in her field.
She attended the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and trained in internal medicine and rehabilitation medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Dr. Klauer holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. She was also a Research Fellow at the New York Obesity Research Center of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital.
Dr. Klauer served as the national nutrition consultant for Lancôme cosmetics. She currently is a member of the advisory board of the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mount Sinai Hospital. Dr. Klauer has two books published by St. Martins Press, New York Times bestseller “How the Rich Get Thin” and “The Park Avenue Nutritionist Plan” published May 2008.