We spend a large part of our day at work, on average 8 hours, and therefore are likely to eat one or more of our meals, plus snacks, in the workplace (this can equate to one-third of our daily calorie intake). What we eat every day determines how well our body functions; our body needs fuel to work and sometimes it can feel like the workplace environment is fighting against our goals to eat healthier. We all know that fruit and vegetables are good for us, yet why do some of us still crave a sugary coffee and a morning pastry at work?
Eating alone at our desk, a drawer stashed with sweet treats, an afternoon biscuit run are all factors that can lead us to go with the ‘unhealthy’ flow which can have a detrimental effect on our productivity. Eating a healthy, balanced diet from every food group is essential to good health; it can improve the quality of life and reduce the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers. What we should be eating is divided into five main food groups; it’s essential to be choosing most foods from each of these groups in order to get you functioning in the right way, every day.
The 5 Main Food Groups
Dairy is high in calcium, protein and vitamin D and is linked to improved bone health, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and can help lower blood pressure in adults. Make sure you always opt for reduced fat options where possible for example, semi or skimmed milk and low fat or ‘light’ cheese. Cultured dairy foods such as yoghurt contain probiotics which can enhance the good bacteria in the gut, improve health and reduce the risk of certain diseases.
If you’re missing a healthy balance of carbohydrates in your diet, your body won’t have the fuel it needs to function and this can lead to a sugar craving. Eating grains provides numerous health benefits including a feeling of fullness without the calories. Whole grains may also help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, and reduce the risk of some chronic diseases as well as aid digestion. Examples of whole grains include oats, popcorn, brown rice and wholemeal bread and pasta.
Lean meats, oily fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and peas supply many nutrients and are naturally low in fat. These foods contain protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, hormones, skin and blood, and can help to reduce your appetite and keep you from overeating. Stick to oil-rich fish like salmon and mackerel which contains omega 3 fatty acids which keep our hearts healthy and are a good source of vitamins A and D.
Fresh fruit is naturally sweet and packed full of important antioxidants, nutrients and minerals, including potassium, fibre, vitamin C and folate (folic acid). It’s an excellent source of dietary fibre acting as a natural cleanser for your digestive system. Low in fat and sodium, fruit can help reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. Some of the healthiest fruits are grapefruits, blueberries, apples, pomegranate, pineapple, citrus fruits and bananas.
Eating from the rainbow gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients including fibre, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Naturally low in fat and calories, any type of vegetable counts to a healthy diet whether fresh, frozen, raw or cooked, even 100% vegetable juice can contribute to your daily vegetable requirement.
5 top tips for eating healthier at work
- Meal prep for the week - Making lunch at home means that you’re in control of exactly what you’re putting in your body and will also save on the pennies.
- Have a big breakfast - If you don’t eat something before work, you will feel increasingly stressed as your body resorts to breaking down muscle to replenish its energy reserves.
- Say ‘No’ - Resist the Friday afternoon biscuit run and pastry-heavy breakfast meetings.
- Healthy storage - Keep perishable items at the correct temperature to avoid any nasty bacteria.
- Snacks - Stay away from the vending machine and instead take in your own healthy snacks.