Work is tiring enough but try doing it without proper nutrition. You will most likely feel weak and without energy, then unable to concentrate on your screen. At the end of the day, you will also feel fatigued and unable to do much afterward.
Bad eating habits and poor nutrition are mostly behind this fatigue, low energy, restlessness, and irritability during your working hours. Unfortunately, many employees who have too much on their plate end up sacrificing their meal times in order to finish on their work. In the end, they skip breakfast and if they do manage to eat lunch, they almost always end up eating something unhealthy. Instead of eating fruit and vegetables, they tend to eat more carbs and sugars to try to boost their energy levels at work.
Beyond just feeling weak and restless at work, you will also increase the chances of getting sick. Being ill will also mean you have to call in sick and the work piles up. Your productivity and performance dip. The stress increases, and this restarts the nasty cycle all over again. This is why, in order to turn things aside, you have to improve your eating habits.
The Challenges Of Eating Well at Work
Not everyone manages to have the time to go out and seek healthy choices during lunch time. The most common scenario is that workers buy whatever is easy and cheap, before going back to their desks and eating quickly.
The problem is the heavy workload that most people have on their plates. This means they have to use every single minute they have to finish their work. However, it means they are not able to focus on their nutrition and adopt the healthy eating habits that will keep them in top shape and contribute to good performance. With about 70% of Americans eating at their offices many times a week, this is a lot of people making the wrong choices regarding their health and well-being.
Eating at the desk, while efficient for most who do not want to wait at a restaurant to be served, has lots of disadvantages.
- Mindless Eating
When you are in a restaurant, you can focus on what you are eating, on your chewing, and on the taste of the food. When you are at your desk, you are focused on the task on hand, on reading your emails, and the stress of the work. Being overworked and burned out can be prevented by simply taking the time to take a break. In fact, eating well and stepping away from your computer allows you to feel refreshed and ready to tackle what’s ahead.
- Less Exercise
Getting up and grabbing something to eat (whether it is outside the office or to the fridge to get your packed lunch) means you get to stand up, stretch your legs and walk a bit. Moving a little bit after hours of sitting in your desk will already get your heart pumping again and the blood flowing.
- Dirty Desk
Eating at your desk means there will the little crumbs falling on your keyboard and make them the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. In fact, your work station is 400 times dirtier compared to your toilet, especially since so few people clean their desks regularly and thoroughly. It is the second dirtiest thing around, after your phone.
You also risk your health when you leave half-eaten food in your desk, which happens when you get called or you go up to do something else. While you are gone, bacteria come in and start invading your food. There is a reason why food should not be left in room temperature for an extended amount of time. Thus, getting up and finishing your meal is the best and healthiest option.
Nutrition At The Workplace
Having a lot of things to do can be very stressful, and when people are stressed, they tend to neglect healthy eating habits. It may be that they skip meals or they tend to stress eat, reaching for fatty or sweet foods that are not at all good for their bodies.
For many who do not have the luxury of time, they find that going to fast food places are the best option. They can order and receive their meals in a few minutes, as opposed to waiting for service in a real restaurant.
Another option, of course, is to bring something from home. However, many employees who are single and do not have the time nor the interest to cook healthy meals simply can’t make lunch and bring it to work. Buying something is, of course, the easiest and most efficient. But even if you buy ready-to-eat meals, you are not really sure what it is you are actually eating.
Snacking is also one of the worst eating habits to have in the workplace. Stacking up on chocolates or chips is the easiest for in-between meals but this does not mean you cannot opt to pack something healthier. Instead of these empty calories, grab some fruit, granola bars, nuts or smoothies for these moments.
How Employers Can Promote Healthy Eating Habits
Companies stand to gain a lot, as well, when their employees eat better. After all, healthy workers perform better and are less likely to call in sick. They also have the advantage of being in the position to influence their subordinates’ eating habits.
Some organizations support their people’s nutrition by setting up cooking courses or nutrition classes, even hiring dieticians or cooks to show employees what a well-balanced meal is like. They can also learn quick meals they can prepare at home and bring for lunch.
Another good idea is to provide employees with some healthy snacks in the office, like bowls of free fruit or packs of nuts. They can be consumed during meetings or simply during breaks. But by putting them out there, they give their employees a chance to reach out for something healthier as opposed to grabbing sugar-laden snacks that have no nutritional value whatsoever.
Also, organizations can review their break policies to ensure their people have enough time to eat well. Break rooms are also a great way to get them off of their desks and give them the space to enjoy their meals away from their computers.
Buying The Right Food Is The First Step
The first step to healthy eating habits starts at the supermarket or the restaurant, where you can choose the ingredients and meals you will eventually consume. If you cook at home, you can choose to buy more than what the recipe states and cook extra for the next day.
The trick is to aim for a good mix of colors on your plate. Greens for the vegetables, while other colors can also bring different nutrients that can nourish you well. Limit the meat to a smaller portion on your plate and if you are eating carbs, opt for brown rice or whole-meal pasta instead. You can also reuse some extra vegetables from your other meals and collect them to make soup.
Tips To Maintaining Good Eating Habits In The Workplace
Being smart at the grocery is only the first step, and the test to develop good eating habits happens at your desk. In order to take the right steps for your health, follow these simple tips:
- Commit To Being Healthy
When you make a decision to change your eating habits for your health, you should commit to it. This means learning about proper nutrition and identifying what you should stop eating and what you should be putting in your mouth instead.
Of course, you can still tailor your new diet to your taste. If you are not a fan of broccoli, then you can still eat something equally healthy but one that matches your taste. You have to make your diet your own, otherwise, it is very easy for you to give up and go back to unhealthy habits.
You can also keep track of when you tend to reach for unhealthy snacks, like when you are under more stress at work. Knowing when these moments are helps you to control these impulses. You can then opt for healthier options in these situations.
- Eat Breakfast
Starting work with an empty stomach is the first wrong step that will lead you to eat just as unhealthily the rest of the day. So, make sure you have enough fuel for a full day at work by eating some good breakfast. Not only will you reduce the hunger pangs that lead you to snack, but you can improve your concentration and memory. Coming to work at your optimum level will enhance performance and reduce stress caused by avoidable errors or poor productivity. Studies also show that your mood is positively affected just by not skipping this meal.
- Keep Hydrated
Drinking enough is not only good for your body, but it will also make you feel full. A good trick is to invest in a reusable bottle and keep it on your desk. Try to finish about 1.5 to 2 liters of water in a day, and work on it slowly while you are working. You will find yourself thinking faster and more capable of focusing and concentrating on the tasks at hand.
- Prepare Your Meals and Snacks The Night Before
One misconception is that cooking needs to take a lot of time and effort but there are so many recipes now out there that take just a few minutes. The fact is meals that have more nutritious ingredients, like vegetables, take less time to cook. Thus, you can easily invest a few minutes the night before to prepare something to bring to work the next day. This is the only way to have complete control over what you eat.
You might also want to prepare your own snacks, like chop up some vegetables or fruits you can munch on while you are working. It might take some time to get used to snacking healthier, but after a few days, you will find your body missing and craving these healthier options.
- Keep A List Of Healthy Restaurants
You can figure out which restaurants in the area serve healthier meals and keep their menus close by just in case you do not have packed lunch. If you need more information, check out reviews online or ask for their menus to look over. Having this list reduces the time lost deciding where to go for lunch and choosing what to order. You can also keep their phone numbers and call ahead of time so that you do not have to wait very long for your meal. Eating out does not have to take long and at the same time, you can keep healthy eating habits.
- Practice Saying No
Unplanned meals and snacks can wreak havoc on your healthy diet and while you can try to avoid them on your own, it can be trickier when colleagues invite you. Of course, special events like birthdays can be an exception but otherwise, you can always say no. If you really must go, then opt for the healthiest option or order something smaller. Do not worry about being teased about being anti-social because you can do other things with colleagues. Plus, if you nicely explain that you are trying to maintain healthy eating habits, your colleagues might understand. You might even encourage them to try it out themselves.
The pace of life and work is nowadays much different. Most people feel like they do not have time to do everything they have to accomplish at work and at home. At times, people choose to sacrifice their meal times to gain some precious minutes to finish their tasks. Unfortunately, this is not good for your health, nor for your performance at work. Thus, the best decision you can make for your body and for your career is to feed your body with a balanced diet that will keep you healthy and in top shape at your office.
- Healthy Eating Habits For 9 to 5 Work Professionals – Medium
- Promoting Healthy Eating And Nutrition In The Workplace – Rise People
- Eating Well At Work – Fit For Work