What we eat at our place of work has a huge impact on our overall diet and influences our productivity. The prevalence of overweight and obesity combined is now 65% for females and 31% for males (2012 South African Health and Nutrition Examination Survey – SANHANES) and unhealthy workplace eating behaviour is believed to be playing a role in South Africa’s growing obesity problem.
The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Week is “Healthy eating in the workplace”. The aim is to target both private and public sector employees as well as food service providers for workplaces, in order to improve the awareness around healthy eating at work.
It is well established that work site wellness programs show great results. A 2012 Meta-evaluation of Work site Health Promotion programs that covered nearly half a million employees showed strong reductions in Sick leave and a reduction in managed health care costs. Research also shows that lifestyle risks contribute to lower morale and productivity. Tailored interventions to promote a smoke-free workplace, healthier diets, increased physical activity and regular health checks have shown a marked reduction in these lifestyle risks.
Our top tips for Improved Wellness in Your Workplace:
Don’t skip breakfast! Make sure you have on-the-go, Plan B options in your desk drawer & work fridge i.e. 5 Dried Mango Strips & 175ml Plain Yoghurt with 1 Fresh Fruit from the Fruit Bowl (see tip number 5!) A good breakfast ensures stable blood glucose control and research indicates that those who consume a healthy breakfast, are more likely to make healthier food choices during the day.
- Bring Lunch to Work. The canteen can often be a minefield in that many of the meals are large and high in excess fat and carbohydrates. Healthy dinner leftovers are the easiest way to solve this as well as other plan B options such as lean biltong, tuna sachets, wholewheat crackers & Sugar-and-Salt-Free Peanut Butter.
- Drink Wisely! The coffee shop watering hole can be the main source of excess daily kilojoules. A Freezochino is equivalent in energy to 4 slices of bread and your daily cappuccino is equivalent in energy to 2 slices of bread. Focus on hydrating with water & sparkling water flavoured with fruit slices or fresh mint and opt for a Skinny Cappuccino once or twice a week as a treat.
- Get up and Get Active! Focus on staying as active as possible in the workplace. Take the stairs vs the lifts,
form office groups to walk together during lunch breaks or even beat the afternoon traffic by staying to do an afternoon group activity such as Yoga/Zumba or Pilates. Exercise boosts mood and enhances energy levels and should form an integral part of your workplace routine.
- Stay Snack Savvy! Make sure you have portioned dried fruit packs and biltong available in your desk drawer to curb cravings and keep hunger at bay. Pool together in the office and make a weekly fruit bowl that each person is responsible for, according to a roster. Stipulate that each week the fruits should change in order to increase nutrient quality and variety.
As a general rule, we spend the vast majority of our days at work, with many people even consuming
2 out of 3 meals at work. If we can focus on improving the quality of the food we eat in this space, it will have a hugely beneficial and positive impact on our health and well being.