Making sure you eat healthy at work is important for your overall health and wellbeing. In today’s world, the reality for most people is spending 8+ hours each day in a draining work environment.
With constant meetings or a generally busy work schedule it is difficult to stay on top of your nutrition and eat healthy at work. A lot of people seem to just opt for a quick sugary, fatty snack. These type of snacks are often readily available from the vending machines and they do offer a quick fix for your hunger.
However, over time these type of nutrition choices are guaranteed to be detrimental to your health and wellbeing at work, in the gym and in your day to day life.
Why are snacks bad?
Snacks are often high in refined sugars. Having a chocolate bar for lunch would provide you with an energy boost and a short-term feeling of satisfaction. This is because the sugar is converted to glucose (blood sugar) and enters the bloodstream quickly.
Insulin is a natural hormone produced in your body and one if its main functions is the regulation of blood sugar. When the levels of blood sugar (glucose) are high, for example right after consuming a chocolate bar, insulin production is also increased. In response to a spike in insulin production, fat cells take in some of the glucose from your blood to bring the levels of blood glucose back to normal. This excess blood sugar is then stored by the body as fat “for later use”.
Why you should control your calorie intake
We all need to eat. If you don’t eat healthy at work, you’re most likely still going to eat unhealthy. Unhealthy foods are often rich in calories, sometimes referred to as “empty calories”, which usually leads to over-eating. It is especially easy to do this with unhealthy foods that have high amounts of sugar. As mentioned earlier, fat cells absorb the excess sugar in your blood and convert it to fat for long-term storage. The only problem is, most of this stored energy is never used and just lead to unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain.
Over time this can also lead to a condition known as insulin resistance. When this happens, the body is unable to effectively respond to insulin and absorb blood sugar into the cells, resulting in a greater need for insulin. This can happen to a ‘healthy’ person and could lead to tiredness, excessive thirst and weight gain among others. In extreme cases it could even lead to the development Type 1 Diabetes, in which case you would require daily injections of insulin to keep your blood glucose levels under control.
Unhealthy foods high in sugar are also often high in salt, which gets added to products to help with preservation. Salt is one of the main factors contributing towards high blood pressure, which is known as the main cause of strokes and heart attacks.
5 ways to make sure you eat healthy at work
Charlotte Stirling-Reed graduated with a 1st-class degree in Nutrition and Human Biology and a Postgraduate Degree from Bristol University in Nutrition and Public Health. She is registered with the Association for Nutrition, the Nutrition Society, SENSE Nutritionists and the Guild of Health Writers and works as a nutrition consultant on a variety of projects. She is specialized in Infant and Child Nutrition, Nutrition Communications, Weight Loss and the Media.
Dr Sarah Brewer has degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery from the University of Cambridge. She also has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Medicine from the University of Surrey. Dr Bower is a a Registered Nutritionist, Registered Nutritional Therapist and an award winning author of more than 60 popular health books.
Below you will learn simple 5 ways to make sure you eat healthy at work, provided by these two registered nutrition experts.
Make sure you eat breakfast
One of Dr Sarah Brewer’s most important recommendations is that you eat breakfast before work. Start your day with a burst of energy by adding nuts, seeds and chopped fruit to your bowl of whole grain cereal, low sugar yogurt or porridge.
“Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are highest after sleeping due to the physical ‘stress’ of eight hours of fasting. Yet many people skip breakfast because they aren’t hungry, are in a rush, or just don’t think it’s important.
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. You will also tend to eat more later in the day, grabbing unhealthy snacks which promote weight gain.” Dr Brewer said.
Prepare your own lunch
Charlotte Stirling-Reed recommends that you prepare and take your own lunch to make it easy for you to eat healthy at work.
“Making lunch at home means that you’re in control of exactly what you’re putting in your body” she said.
“Choosing healthy foods will help you build energy and motivation to get you through the afternoon. Dedicate just 10 minutes in the evening to putting together a healthy, balanced lunch and you’ll feel better about it all day long!”
Reed recommends simple lunches that will not take you a long time to prepare, like a green salad, a falafel wrap or a tuna sandwich. If you don’t want to prepare your own lunch, she recommends that you find a suitable place to eat in the area around your work. Just make sure that you check the label for ingrediants and nutrition, before you buy.
“It can be easy to get sucked into simply buying your lunch each day from the same canteen or supermarket. Instead, why not venture out to find local places – many now offer ‘healthier alternative’ lunches due to popular demand.”
Take advantage of your lunch break
Charlotte Stirling-Reed also explains that making better nutritonal choices to eat healthy at work also comes down to taking advantage of your lunch break.
“Some people skip lunch due to heavy workloads, but taking time out could actually help boost your concentration and productivity. You need to ensure that you’re getting a good dose of energy and nutrients right when you need them. If it’s possible, eat away from your desk and try and get a little active at lunchtime, too. Eating alfresco, if it’s possible to do so, always makes lunchtime more enjoyable.” she explained.
Reed stresses the importance of taking the time to eat your lunch to “switch off” from your work:
“Eating in a slower, more thoughtful way could help you make healthier food choices. According to Harvard Medical School, mindful eating helps to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, improve digestion and promote weight loss. Eat slowly and savour the full aroma, flavour and texture of your lunch. It helps to eat with your non-dominant hand – hold your fork in the left hand if you normally hold it in the right.” she concluded.
If you want to snack, eat healthy snacks
Both nutritonal experts agree that having healthy snacks on hand at work is a great habit to make and will ensure that you eat healthy at work.
“Look for unusual snacks such as roasted chickpeas and broad beans, too” for a crunchy alternative to crisps.” Dr Brewer explained.
Drink plenty of water
Both nutritional experts agree that staying hydrated is an extremely important part of making sure that you eat healthy at work. Being dehydrated can cause fatigue, make it hard to concentrate and even cause headaches and irritability. Often times feeling peckish could just be a sign of being dehydrated.
“Keeping hydrated at work can easily slip your mind throughout a busy day. Unfortunately, your thirst receptors are not a sensitive judge of how fluid deficient you are, and by the time you feel thirsty you are already significantly dehydrated,” Dr Brewer explains explains.
Dr Brewer suggest keeping a large bottle of water near you at all times, or making sure that you use the water cooler to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day.
“If plain water is too bland for you, add a slice of lemon, lime, cucumber or a sprig of mint.” she suggests.
Employers should promote healthy food choices
A study by International Labour Office (ILO) showed that poor nutrition reduced employee efficiency by 20% and was directly linked to absence from work and low morale within the workplace. Unhealthy eating clearly leads to a reduction in job performance, however there are solutions to this.
By swapping chocolate bars and crisps with natural oat bars, nuts and fruit you could be consuming around 15000 calories less per month. Behaviour change strategies such as this have been shown to be effective in leading to weight loss. Trying to eat healthy at work can provide you with more energy, mental clarity and improved overall wellbeing.
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 17th May, 2020.