7 Ways to support healthy eating at work
Many of us spend most of our days working, therefore our eating patterns at work can greatly impact on our health. Sure I get it, the workplace can be full of temptation - morning tea’s, birthdays, leaving parties, fundraising chocolates, the vending machine calling at 3pm, after work drinks, and the list goes on. Not to mention that many of us are working full steam ahead, not really aware of what we’re throwing into our bodies. But did you know that healthy eating during your work day can help you get ahead?
It’s worth taking a few moments to make your workplace work for you to support your healthy lifestyle. I’ve come up with 7 ways to help do just that…
1. Workday structure
With work comes structure, work with it, not against it. Most of us have a general idea of our break times, when regular meetings are held and when deadlines are approaching. Just like with any other important work task, prioritise healthy eating and get organised. Set aside times where you can enjoy a healthy snack and make sure you take a lunch break away from other work influences to ensure this is a mindful experience.
2. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
Bring your food from home. Preparation is key. Whether you plan your week on the weekend or it’s more convenient to pack your food each night, pack your meals and snacks full of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean meat and/or protein alternatives, and whole grains. This could be last night’s leftovers, or pre-prepared meals and snacks specific for work. Planning takes commitment and will no doubt take extra time out of your day, but after a while you will start to feel better and easily justify the extra time.
3. Emergency stash
It’s also good to plan for those moments where work throws you an unexpected curve ball. Dedicate a place at work to store non-perishable, healthy snacks and top it up when it’s running low. Having a variety of healthy snack options on hand for the inevitable work disruption will ensure you don’t fall victim to local takeaways, or the unhealthy vending machine calling your name. Easy snack options include trail mix or nuts, canned tuna, 100% nut butter, high fibre muesli bars and dried fruit. Make sure you choose items that you’re not likely to want to snack on all day long.
4. No thanks!
Morning teas, birthdays, leaving parties, colleagues that regularly push food - these can be the difference between eating the equivalent calories contained in three meals per day and 4 or 5! Unhealthy food and drink temptations are common in the workplace, however, the amount and frequency you choose to indulge in is ultimately up to you and should reflect your overall health goals. Your work colleagues won’t lose any sleep if you choose the piece of fruit over the slice cake. Be prepared to politely decline any unhealthy offerings, or choose the healthiest option available.
5. Fuelling your engine
What does your eating pattern look like across the day? Do you skip breakfast, or sometimes miss lunch altogether? Do you eat anything between lunch and dinner? Do you binge when you get home? Some of my clients have had great success looking at their eating pattern, ensuring that their body is adequately fuelled across the entire day. Just like the heart, liver and kidneys, your brain is acutely sensitive to the food and drink you consume. To get the most out of your body, priority should be placed on eating 3 healthy meals and healthy snacks in between.
6. Short-list healthy food outlets nearby work
You are never going to be able to bring your lunch from home every single work day. Life and work will ultimately get in the way. Do your research, investigate healthy options available nearby and create a go-to list for these occasions. This will ensure that when you do eat out, at least you’re choosing the healthiest options.
7. It’s not just about food
If you’ve ever felt tired or sluggish at work it could be because you’re dehydrated. Dehydration has been shown to negatively impact on decision-making and cognitive performance, which could result in a decline in productivity and could also be very dangerous for people working in safety critical roles. Drinks such as coffee and black tea usually contain caffeine, which is a diuretic which can further dehydrate the body. Plain tap water is the best way to hydrate your body. Keep a bottle at your desk or workstation and regularly sip, making sure to refill. In addition, don’t be fooled by thirst masquerading as hunger. This will only make it harder to eat healthily.
There’s a wealth of information online that can help keep you on track at work. For more information, Unhealthy Eating is a great starting point and includes a healthier eating and drinking policy at work as well as linking to free resources and support for you to use at home and in the workplace.
See you at lunch,
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