“Tick, tock, tick, tock” before you know it, it’s 5:00AM and time to start your day. You quickly jump in the shower, get dressed, grab something to eat and make a coffee on-the-go – with the hopes that you have left early enough to miss the traffic blues. Your day is jam packed with admin, deadlines and meetings, you don’t expect anything less of the corporate world. There is literally no time to think about exercise or even food. Perhaps these tips can help get you to a healthier and happier you despite how busy your everyday work life is.
We spend many hours at the workplace therefore we would automatically be eating nearly half of our daily calories in meals and snacks here. It’s easy to see that eating healthy at work can help influence our overall diet and impact our health. It’s not always the easiest to stay on track as life is fast paced and often convenience gets the upper hand. Let’s see what can be done.
Firstly what is wellness? Wellness refers to a state of wellbeing, “acceptance or satisfaction with our present condition, being healthy and disease free both mentally and physically, as well as functioning socially1“. This should be an ongoing, active process where one becomes aware of and learns to make healthy choices. This then leads us towards a longer, happier and more productive life.
Corporate wellness refers to wellness within a workplace where employers create a healthier, happier and more relaxed environment for their employees1. This can help improve happiness, productivity, health and morale of staff, whilst reducing stress levels too. More and more individuals are striving to live healthier lifestyles, companies need to be on-board to help make this possible2. Canteen and cafeteria menus need to have healthier alternatives that are in line with the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines, alternatively a menu worked out by a Registered Dietitian can offer balanced, healthier options3. Healthy drinks and snacks should make up the majority of vending machines and corporate events and meetings should cater wholesome, healthy options moving away from processed and take-out foods.
Many research studies have shown that healthy workers are more productive and also have less sick days. This is a win-win situation2,3.
SMALL CHANGES BIG RESULTS
Eating right has numerous benefits. It helps with weight management, keeping blood glucose levels stable, it provides sustained energy levels and better concentration which lead to increased productivity. It can help decrease the risk of diseases, provides a stronger immune response and helps control hormones and better one’s mood. Convinced yet?
1. Pack a healthy lunchbox
The key for this to work is planning.
- Get equipped: get the right sized lunchbox containers for meals and snacks. If your workplace does not have a fridge make sure to get a small cooler box (foil lined and practical) and a slim ice-pack. Get a quality water bottle to ensure you drink enough water throughout the day. Infuse your water with lemon, mint, cucumber, ginger, fresh fruit pieces – whatever rocks your boat. Aim for 8 glasses per day – that’s about 1 glass per hour.
- Plan, plan, plan: plan your meals for the week. Make enough food so that you can take left-overs to work the following day. This will not only save you money but will make things a lot easier for yourself. If cooking during the week is a big no-no for you then bulk-cook over the weekend and store in the fridge / freezer.
- Go shopping: Create a shopping list of all the ingredients & snacks you’ll need to buy. Prepack snacks into little bags or lunch boxes. Prepacking snacks will help save time and also help decrease food wastage.
- Pack enough: this will help decrease the temptation to buy something. Eat a small meal every 2-3 hours (mid-morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack). Drink lots of water, diluted fruit juice, herbal tea, coffee etc.
2. What is in a healthy lunchbox?
Try pack something from each of the food-groups in the right portions; the plate model may help with portion control if you are unsure.
- Fruit: fresh apples, banana, strawberries, grapes, watermelon cubed etc.
- Vegetables: carrot/cucumber/bell pepper/ celery sticks, salad veggies (cherry tomatoes, lettuce etc.)
- Grains or Starches: wraps, whole-wheat or low GI bread, whole-wheat wraps, brown rice, couscous, brown pasta, quinoa etc.
- Protein: grilled chicken strips, cheese, boiled egg, tuna, steak strips, feta, lean mince, fish cakes, cottage cheese.
- Dairy: low fat yogurt, milk, drinking yogurt.
- Fat: homemade salad dressing with a healthy oil such as olive or avocado oil, nuts, seeds, lite mayonnaise, hummus.
3. Healthy snack options
Being aware of everything you eat and drink is important. When under stress and pressure it’s easy to grab something unhealthy and satisfying. Remember every nutrient counts towards your total intake4.
Here are a few healthy snack options:
- Fruit: Fresh, whole fruit or in tubs, dried fruit, fruit rolls (no added sugar)
- Nuts: roasted, unsalted about 30g, trail mixes
- Lean biltong 30-50g, air popped popcorn
- Whole-wheat crackers with cottage cheese, sugar free peanut butter, smashed avocado
- Dairy: low fat or fat free milk, yoghurt (100g)
- Veggies dipped in hummus, cottage cheese
- FUTURELIFE® High Protein SmartBar and FUTURELIFE® High Protein LITE SmartBar
- FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink™
4. Cafeteria or canteen swops
When eating at the cafeteria make smart choices, do these little swops:
- Choose brown options over white (brown bread, rice, pasta)
- Skip the potato, chips, rice or pap and rather opt for veggies or salad
- Choose grilled and boiled vs. fried options
- Skip battered options
- Swop creamy salad dressings with balsamic vinegar
- Swop creamy sauces/soups with veggie based (example creamy alfredo for a tomato based pasta)
- Buy water (sparkling or still), lite options, tea or coffee vs. high sugary drinks, hot chocolate
5. Get active
With great nutrition comes exercise. If you are new to this don’t worry just start somewhere.
- Take the stairs not the lift, always find a parking further away
- Join an exercise class/gym: spinning, yoga, pilates, kata boxing or even join a walking/running club
- Find what you enjoy even if it means taking your dogs for a walk, walking in nature or swimming
- Set realistic exercise goals and try stick to it – sometimes we need to “do what others don’t, to get what others won’t.”
6. Get tested
Screening tests are great, quick and easy. Regularly getting your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, glucose and weight measurements done can help prevent disease progression5. They always say prevention rather than cure. If your work doesn’t offer this pop by a pharmacy and ask the nurse to do these for you.
Breathe – taking your lunch break in your office garden, sipping on a cup of tea on the balcony or stretching your legs can help you re-energise and refocus2. Face it not Facebook – speak to your colleagues, direct communication is often more beneficial. Laugh and share a joke now and then, laughter is a great stress reliever2.
Wellness is about mind, body and soul. A healthy, happy employee is a productive and focused employee. Making these small changes day in and day out can help make fundamental life and health changes. Start with a few today and before you know it you will be a pro at making healthier choices.
- Corporate Wellness. (2018, February 27). Retrieved from Welcome Wellness: http://www.welcomewellness.co.za/corporate-wellness
- Celebrate Corporate Wellness. (2018, February 27). Retrieved from Health24: https://www.health24.com/Lifestyle/Healthy-workplace/News/Celebrate-corporate-wellness-20120721
- Piderit , M. (2018, February 27). The Importance Of Healthy Eating To Corporate Wellness. Retrieved from Spice4Life: http://spice4life.co.za/healthy_living/the-importance-of-healthy-eating-to-corporate-wellness/
- 2017). Retrieved January 26, 2018, from American Heart Association: https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/how-to-eat-healthy-without-dieting
- Corporate Wellness Week. (2018, February 27). Retrieved from GEMS: https://www.gems.gov.za/default.aspx?tqkAAbRKHJDuv1JMr7CCeA==