By JOANNE HENSON
If you spend five days a week in an office environment – the chances are you struggle to eat healthily there.
Outside of the workplace, you can shop for healthy food, prepare healthy food, and control the food you have around. But in the office, where full time workers spend 35 or more hours per week, it’s often not so easy.
Vending machines full of sugary snacks, plates of biscuits in meetings, canteens selling fatty and processed foods, lunches grabbed from the nearest sandwich outlet and cakes to celebrate birthdays are all part and parcel of office life. Combine this with forgetting to stay properly hydrated when things get busy, lots of sitting, a lack of fresh air and a lack of natural sunlight and you’ve got the perfect recipe for poor health.
So what can you do to improve your workplace diet? Here are some suggestions:
- Eat breakfast at home
Having a healthy breakfast before leaving the house means there’ll be no need to buy a sugary muffin or pastry on the way into the office. Failing that, take something healthy with you and eat it when you get to your desk
- Drink plenty of water
A lack of hydration can cause physical and mental tiredness and, at its worst, headaches. Often dehydration can be mistaken for hunger, so staying hydrated can help people avoid unnecessary snacking too
- Make a list of go-to lunch options
If you’re under pressure and only have ten minutes to rush out to buy lunch, you don’t have time to think about what would be the healthiest option. Making a list of the best outlets and the best meal choices from those outlets and keeping it to hand can make a healthy choice when you’re in a rush much easier
- Have a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer
When hunger does strike, without something nutritious to hand, you’ll be tempted to go and buy a sugary treat. If you have nuts, cereal bars and fruit close to hand that will be what you eat instead
- Have healthy birthdays
If you’re part of a big team, there’ll be regular birthdays and regular cakes brought into the office. How about an office pact that when people bring in birthday treats, they bring in some healthy options too?
And speak to your employer – here are some ideas for what they can do to support you and your colleagues:
- Make water readily available
Have lots of water coolers around the office, not just one in the kitchen. And provide herbal/fruit teas alongside the coffee and normal teabags – they are another way of increasing water intake
- Make it easy for staff to prepare healthy food
Ensure that the staff kitchen has enough plates, cutlery and plenty of fridge space for the people who want to bring in healthy food to assemble at the office. Employees will only bring in salads if they know they have fridge space in which to store it and a plate on which to put it
- Make meetings healthy
Offer water, herbal teas and fruit alongside the coffee and biscuits. For working lunches order sandwiches on wholemeal bread and vegetable crudités rather than crisps
And finally, speak to your canteen manager and vending machine provider – canteens can offer salads and fruit alongside the fries and muffins, vending machines can include cereal bars and bags of dried fruit among the crisps and chocolate, but unless you tell the people providing these services that you want healthier options they may assume there’s no demand.
Put some of these ideas into practice and you’ll reap the health benefits. Your colleagues might thank you for setting a good example too!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joanne Henson is a health and weight-loss coach, specialising in helping people with a history of failed diets and fitness regimes to change their relationship with food and exercise for good. From unhealthy beginnings she overcame her own obstacles and now motivates and inspires others to become the healthier, leaner, happier people they’ve always wanted to be.
Follow Joanne on Twitter: @Joannemh and @whats_yr_excuse