For the next few Fridays, we’ll be talking about the day to day challenges of working in an office, some obvious, some not so obvious. We’ll explore a different topic each week, and present practical solutions for overcoming the various challenges that the office lifestyle presents to maintaining health and wellness. I’m hoping to provide mid-week office-style lunch options for you to try so you can liven up the old reliable “box lunch” standards and maximize what you have to work with in your break room.
Week 1, A Microwave Dilemma
I love my work station. After a quick trip to Property and Salvage a few months back, I was able to make my workstation adjustable to a standing workstation (it really only worked out so cheaply because I’m really short, but hey, I’ll take it!). I have a nice, big desk with lots of storage — a snack drawer, a bookshelf, and a place to hide my walking shoes — much more than I can say for my last company, where I had two computers, and one was on a tiny roll-away TV table! My coworkers are friendly and flexible with my constant need to move around and the in-and-out nature of my role at the company. All things considered, I’d say I have it made!
Ok, I’ll admit it. There’s one glaring difference between this job and my last one at a tiny, family-owned vitamin company: THE KITCHEN. Being in an office environment without a stove or oven for the past two years has been a challenge, but it’s forced me to come up with creative ways to prepare my food using a microwave.
This post isn’t about my microwave gourmet (which admittedly is fodder for upcoming posts), rather, it’s about the CONTAINERS we use to microwave our food. Every week, I see the same plastic containers going in and out of the microwave, sitting in the sink, sitting in the dish rack, and then going back in the microwave a few days later.
This post is about BPA.
BPA (Bisphenol A) is a compound found in most hard plastics and the inside lining of cans that’s been conclusively linked to obesity, because it mimics a hormone that disrupts the proper metabolism of glucose (sugar) and lipids (fats). There are also growing concerns that BPA can affect the sex glands, behavior, and brain function, although those risks are still not taken quite as seriously by the FDA. That being said, due to elevated press and increased concern over the risks of BPA, The FDA has made recommendations to minimize exposure, especially for pregnant and nursing women and children.
Here’s an article from 2008, before the major baby brands began removing the chemical from their product lines. Nalgene, a major producer of plastic sports bottles also stopped using the chemical around the same time. This is a big deal, right? Some reports have shown that as many as 90% of Americans have BPA in their bodies at any given time.
Microwaving food in plastic containers causes BPA (and other harmful chemicals) to leach into your food. The best way to avoid that is by never microwaving in plastic. I’m not saying that you should go out and invest in a bunch of expensive Pyrex storage containers (although there are TONS of awesome, less expensive alternatives, and it’s not a bad idea to start making the transition — my favorite ones are the kinds that have the locking tops,. Check out discount stores in the house ware sections!), but I do have an easy way to solve this problem without spending a dime. Commit to bringing ONE extra plate and ONE extra bowl to leave at work so that you can use those to microwave your food. If you want to transfer your food from home to work in plastic, just dump it into a glass plate or bowl before you nuke it.
Now for those pesky cans…
Some awesome food companies are jumping on the BPA awareness bandwagon and have made the switch to cans that don’t contain the chemical. Look for cans at the store that state right on the label that they are BPA-free. Another way to avoid BPA in cans is to move from cans to boxes (or frozen in the case of veggies). When I say boxes, I mean tetra packs. These days, you can find almost anything in a tetra pack from chopped tomatoes to chicken broth to butter nut squash soup. I even shared a picture of my favorite coconut milk in a previous post, which is 100% pure and BPA-free because it comes in a tetra pack.
So there you have it. Week 1 of our Working in an Office series!
Solution: 1 plate and 1 bowl from home, and make the switch to frozen and tetra packs.
Simple as pie! (or a nice grain-free crumble!)