March is Nutrition Month and this year’s campaign focuses on eating well at work.
Do you rush out the door on an empty stomach every morning? Do you eat lunch at your desk while staring at a screen? Do you have meetings and break rooms filled with goodies? Are you looking for the nearest vending machine in the afternoon?
Many of us have good intentions of eating well, but life seems to get in the way. If we can find a way to make it happen, though, we may find we have more energy, better concentration, increased productivity, improved mood and better overall health. Almost half of Canadians say that eating healthy meals and snacks while at work is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Get your day off to a good start by eating breakfast. Although breakfast is associated with a lower body weight, improved appetite control, and better nutrition, almost 40 per cent of Canadians report skipping this important meal. For many of us, time is the biggest barrier. You can overcome this by doing some preparation the night before (like boiling eggs) or by stocking up on no-cook foods like fruit, yogurt, cheese and nuts.
Lunch is the most popular meal to eat out. This can make it difficult to control portion sizes. Only a third of Canadians are preparing lunch at home and another third are skipping this meal altogether. This can lead to decreased energy in the afternoon and overeating later in the day.
Bring leftovers from home for a quick and easy lunch. If you don’t have a way to warm up your food, consider options that don’t need heat like tuna on wholegrain crackers or black bean salad in a tortilla.
If you have lunch, are you eating at your desk? Eating while distracted can lead to overeating and decreased satisfaction. How often do you clean your workstation? Gross fact: There are 400 times more bacteria on the average desktop than on the average toilet seat.
Do you look for a snack to get you through the afternoon? Are you physically hungry or are you bored, tired or procrastinating?
Most snacks are eaten for enjoyment rather than health, making them more of a treat than a snack. Choose minimally processed foods like fruit, vegetables, wholegrain crackers, yogurt, cheese, hummus or nuts and seeds more often instead of packaged snack foods like granola bars, 100-calorie snack packs, puddings and fruit snacks.
How do you manage stress in your workplace? Up to 25 per cent of Canadian workers are highly stressed on most days. For many, this can be a trigger for problematic eating.
If it’s comfort you’re craving, try stretching, deep breathing, a glass of water or a quick walk around the building to nurture yourself without nourishing yourself.
Creating healthier work places is worth your time and effort.
Ultimately, it can help cut costs on employee health insurance plans, reduce sick and disability days, and reduce health-related lost productivity. Are dietitian services a part of your employee health insurance plan? They should be!
Are your employees on shift work? Rotational shift workers have a higher incidence of heartburn, constipation and loss of appetite, which may be related to irregular meal times and disrupted sleep.
You can also consider creating policies that promote a healthier work place such as choosing nutritious options when catering meetings or events. Provide vegetables and hummus or fruit and yogurt instead of muffins and doughnuts. Offer water instead of juice or pop.
Do your employees have access to nutritious food that is affordable and tastes good? If it’s not available, they can’t choose it. The same argument can be made for less-nutritious choices as well. Out of sight is out of mind.
A Dietitian can help
Dietitians want to make healthy eating in the work place easier for Canadians. Whether you want to combat rushed mornings, offer more nutritious choices at meetings, beat the lunch bag blues, or fight the mid-afternoon slump, a registered dietitian can help.
If you’re an employer, covering dietitian services with your employee health insurance plan or having an RD come in to talk to your staff can pay for itself by reducing costs and increasing productivity.
If you’re an employee, ask your employer to provide these services so that you might benefit from increased energy, improved mood and better overall health. You can also visit www.nutritionmonth2015.ca or look for the #nutritionmonth hashtag on Twitter for more tips.
After all, eating healthy meals and snacks during the work day is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.
Ashley Hurley is a registered dietitian in Greater Sudbury. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/ashleyhurleyRD, follow her on Twitter at @AshleyHurleyRD or visit www.ashleyhurley.com