Traffic is backed up for miles. The computer crashes. The "little project" the boss handed off on his way out the door is now into the 11th hour.
This is when the old Boy Scout bromide to "Be Prepared" comes in hand for more than earning merit badges. When things get busy, you don't have to foresake your resolution to eat smarter or leap at whatever is hanging on a hook in the vending machine. A little foresight keeps you armed and ready.
Here are five easy ways to be prepared for life's hangups and hunger pangs.
Anticipate emergencies. At the very least, pack your brown bag lunch with emergencies in mind. One former colleague routinely packed her light lunch with no intention of eating it at noon. Instead, it lingered in the fridge until her work was finally done, and she could bear to face the evening rush hour, the predictable time when tempers run high but her blood sugar ran low.
However, she never skipped the noon fuel stop. Instead, a hot lunch, her main meal of the day, was eaten out, providing her a reprieve from the morning's pressures and a chance to plan the day's second half.
Got fruit, or, for that matter, veggies? If increasing your consumption of fresh produce is a serious health goal (and five servings a day should be, according to most major health organizations) why not keep it right before your eyes? A small bowl of fruit on your desk is both appealing and practical.
An apple tucked into your desk drawer provides a handy nosh when it dawns on you to fetch something far less nutritious. Pack a couple of stalks of celery, bell pepper strips or a big carrot to chomp on for when you're tempted to chomp on chips.
Keep a can of tuna. Today, canned foods and shelf-stable convenience products abound, and many of them are fairly healthful. Pop-top cans of tuna, reduced-fat cheese products, crackers, a box of raisins or other dried fruit, all provide a reasonable lunch, not to mention a soundly nutritious alternative to what awaits you at the candy machine.
Create a survival stash. Many of us practically live in our cars or go nowhere without our backpack, briefcase or purse, so why not equip them as rolling smorgasbords?
Your bag or glove box can harbor an array of options: a can of juice or aseptic-sealed milk pack along with pretzels, low-fat breakfast bars and a plastic bag filled with dried fruit.
A well-wrapped peanut butter-and-jelly will keep for a day, assuming moderate temperatures, but remember, as the weather warms up, to "rotate" your stash every few days, otherwise you're apt to wind up with a baked apple in your car console.
Pick your poison: Finally, there's the type who can't (or won't) resist a mid-afternoon foray at the vending machine. Fine, but at least acknowledge your weakness and plan alternatives.
Buy a box of reduced-fat granola bars or other cereal-based fruit-filled bars and keep them on hand.
Punch the button that gets you cheese crackers, baked chips or pretzels rather than the full-fat alternatives.
Candy bars usually aren't the most sound nutritional choice,. but, if you're bound for chocolate, at least choose a brand filled with nougat, fondant or cookies. They tend to be less calorie- and fat-dense than solid chocolate, but you'll want to compare labels before you rationalize.
EGGS OVER EASY: Several eggs that are lower in fat and cholesterol than the average egg are on the market or only a few years away from hitting stores. Research and production of "designer eggs" that are better for consumers is taking off, members of the egg industry said.
"This is the wave of the future," said John Wilson, vice president of Cyncron Corp., which has developed eggs that have a little more than 25 percent less saturated fat and cholesterol than the average egg. "I hope it will turn around things so that people start viewing eggs as healthy again."