How to Avoid the 'Tech 20'

If you managed to survive your first year of college without gaining the dreaded “freshman 15,” you deserve high praise. Resisting the allure of all-you-can-eat dining halls, late-night pizza runs and beer-fueled social events is no small feat.

Related: Why Perks Don't Make a Company Culture 

Thought those days were behind you? If you’re among the growing number of employees working at a tech company where the perks are plentiful, you may find yourself reliving your youth in an unexpected way. From on-site laundry services to complementary classes and massages, on-the-job benefits can make it possible to accomplish a long list of to-dos without ever leaving the office.

But one of the most popular perks -- the seemingly never-ending supply of free food --can have serious repercussions on your health.

Related: 10 Simple Ways to Eat Healthy Without Thinking

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to navigate the company cafeteria and keep your healthy eating on track even when faced with a bottomless buffet. So, here are my tips for sidestepping the notorious “tech 20.” Eat up (the advice, that is):

  • Establish a regular schedule for meals and snacks. Maintaining a consistent routine helps support a balanced diet and healthy eating habits.
  • Practice portion control. Three ounces of chicken is about the size of a deck of cards, half a cup of cooked pasta is about the size of a light bulb, and one tablespoon of butter is about the size of a poker chip.
  • Use smaller plates. Some research suggests that a small increase in the size of your dishware can lead to a substantial increase in calories.
  • Follow the PFC (protein, fat, carbs) rule: Fill your plate with a combination of lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to stay full and avoid post-lunch blood sugar crashes.
  • Opt for whole grains. Instead of white rice, go for brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat. Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains and will keep you satiated.
  • Don’t overload your salads: Limit cheese, croutons, bacon and other high-calorie additions. Get your dressing on the side and opt for healthy fats like avocado over creamy dressings.
  • Stick to water. Proper hydration helps keep hunger in check and you’ll save a ton of calories choosing plain water over soda or juice.
  • Fill half your plate with veggies. Choose nutritious options like leafy greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts and leave less room for indulgences.
  • Take a break before heading back for seconds. Wait 20 minutes after eating to assess if you’re really still hungry or if you’re just tempted by the array of options.
  • Drink a glass of water if you feel hungry soon after you’ve eaten. We often mistake thirst for hunger.
  • Avoid stress eating. It’s easy to fill up on unhealthy snacks when you’re bored, stressed or not paying attention. Eat away from your desk, even if it’s for just 20 minutes.

Related: It's Time to Check In on These 5 Healthy Habits You Resolved to Keep