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Prairie Fare: Do You Sit Most of the Day?

 Ideally the height of a standing desk fits the height of its individual user. Flickr: Shawn Porter Ideally the height of a standing desk fits the height of its individual user. Flickr: Shawn Porter
Those who sit most of the day may face a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, obesity and cancer.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I was anticipating food at a “breakfast meeting” and I was correct. Food is not available at every meeting I attend, so it is a welcome treat. I skipped breakfast in anticipation.

When I arrived, I eyed the tray of caramel rolls and cinnamon rolls. I was kind of hungry. I opted for the cinnamon roll with a cup of plain coffee.

My next meeting occurred an hour later. We had the choice of various whole fruit, water, juice and a variety of large doughnuts. As tempting as the doughnuts looked, I grabbed a banana and a bottle of water.

I’m not boasting about my ability to resist food temptations. I’m just trying to continue to wear the same size clothes. With all the potential treats in my path and the amount of sitting I do, some days my job is a recipe for weight gain.

Let’s do some calorie counting. My first meeting had enough sweet rolls available for each of us to have two or three. I had one roll, and based on U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrient values, it had about 250 calories. The plain coffee had no calories. I could have added cream and sugar to the tune of 50 calories.

At my second meeting, I could have chosen a large glazed doughnut (with about 300 calories), but I opted for the medium-sized banana with about 100 calories. The juice beverage would have added another 90 calories, but I chose the water with no calories.

In total, my morning treats provided me with about 350 calories. Had I chosen two rolls, coffee with all the fixings, a doughnut and a fruit drink, I would have consumed about 950 calories.

Have you ever wondered how pounds can “creep up” on us? Theoretically, by eating just an extra 100 calories per day beyond what our bodies need, we can gain 10 pounds in a year.

Nutrition labels are based on an average caloric need of 2,000 calories in a day. I could have been almost halfway to my daily calorie total by 10 a.m.

If I gave in to tempting treats regularly, I would need to go shopping for larger clothing or step up my daily physical activity level. Maybe I need a treadmill in my office.

If you are the person planning the food for a meeting, you can boost your attendees’ nutritional intake and help them preserve their waistlines by providing healthful options such as fruit and water. If doughnuts are the usual treat, try providing doughnut balls or cutting the doughnuts in half.

Fruit breads, small whole-grain muffins or bagels are other more healthful options. Or how about some string cheese, whole-grain crackers, fat-free yogurt and/or some lightly salted nuts?

After sitting at meetings most of the morning, I walked back to my desk to sit some more and work at my computer.

How bad is sitting most of the time? Researchers have been studying the hazards of a sedentary lifestyle. Those who sit most of the day may face a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, obesity and cancer.

Reading the research results made me want to stand up immediately and jog out the door.

Maybe you spend a lot of time at a computer or perhaps you spend a lot of time sitting and watching TV. Experts suggest that we get up and move every 30 minutes, or we can do exercises from a chair if mobility is an issue.

The NDSU Extension Service publication “Stretching Toward Better Health” ( has many exercises you can do while seated in a chair.

I also find that getting up and walking down the hallway to fill my glass with water helps me refocus on a new task, such as writing a weekly column. I also try to keep some portion-controlled snacks at my desk, including whole-grain crackers I portion at home. Sometimes, dried fruit and nuts are a welcome treat when the mid-day slump kidnaps my energy.

Some of my colleagues have stand-up desks. I recently acquired a small “stair stepper” that tucks under my desk. I can use it to entertain myself and exercise while I’m on conference calls. The people on the phone call can’t see me bobbing up and down when I am on a speaker phone.

If you like an occasional savory snack, here’s a flavorful one with about 120 calories per half cup. You can personalize it with your favorite cereal.

Read “Eat Smart: Enjoy Healthier Snacks at Work” ( for more tips that can be applied to any snacking situation. Check out for more tips to get healthy this spring.

No-bake Snack Mix

8 c. cereal squares (such as corn or wheat Chex or Crispix)

2 1/2 c. Wheat Thins

2 1/2 c. bite-sized cheddar cheese crackers (such as whole-grain Goldfish)

3 Tbsp. canola oil or your favorite cooking oil

1/2 envelope (0.5 ounce) ranch salad dressing mix

Directions: Combine cereal, Wheat Thins and crackers in large bowl. Drizzle with oil and stir gently. Sprinkle with dressing mix and stir gently.

Makes 26 (1/2-cup) servings. Each serving has 120 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 2 g of protein, 16 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 140 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 12, 2015

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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