Corporate Nutrition & Workplace Wellness Tips
“Optimum nutrition on minimal time” is a popular topic for corporate nutrition & workplace wellness talks, because let’s face it we are all time poor! At corporate nutrition events, I share my tips and tricks on how to keep it simple yet still achieve a balanced diet, breakfast on the run, snacks at work, workplace healthy eating policies and lastly, how to take the stress out of the kitchen mid-week. Here I share my 10 Healthy Eating Tips for the workplace which really can be implemented by you today. Nothing complicated, just healthy eating and some practical tips.
1. Breakfast on the run
If you don’t have time or for that matter an appetite for breakfast; all is not lost, no need to feel like a failure before you even leave the house in the mornings. The most important thing is, that when you do eat it is something healthy whatever time that may be. The worse thing about skipping breakfast is, it often leads to making poor choices mid-morning, so plan your first meal. Ideally bring it to work with you if you don’t eat breakfast at home. Another option, if to keep some breakfast food/ingredients at work. Here are some suggestions for a healthy breakfast on the run.
- Orange, chia and blueberry overnight oats. The great thing about overnight oats is you are prepared for 2 eventualities. You have a ready made brekafast which you can have at home or you have a packed breakfast ready to go to bring to work if not. This is a very easy, quick and healthy recipe for overnight oats – 40g oats, 125 g natural yogurt, ½ orange (squeeze the juice from the orange and then use a dessertspoon to pry out the fruit), 1 tsp. chia seeds, 1 tsp desiccated coconut. Mix everything and top with blueberries. Loosen with a little milk or water when serving. Tip – overnight oats don’t need to be prepared the night before, they actually only need about 30 minutes.
- Snacky breakfast
- Protein Greek yogurt, a piece of fruit and a closed handful of nuts. If you are really in a rush or really not a breakfast person this would make a great breakfast when 11 o’clock comes around. You will get a decent amount of protein from a high protein Greek yogurt. Add some fruit and nuts for some healthy fats, fibre, a little more protein, as well as vitamins and minerals.
2. Bring your own snacks to work and into meetings
Meetings often go over, and when we get over-hungry, we tend to then make poor choices and consequently over eat. Pre-empt this and manage your hunger by bringing a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts into the meeting room.
There is no better choice than fruit, it is convenient, healthy, low in calories, tasty and easy to carry with you. Nuts, popcorn & crudités are also good options, as well as wholegrain crackers. However, please add something to your cracker, make it interesting, tasty, appealing. I often picture an office worker eating a lowly rice cracker in the corner and it seems a little depressing. Top with a little peanut butter, hummus or cottage cheese with some berries or seeds. I know many people find cottage cheese bland, season it, it makes the world of difference.
Add protein to snacks with the addition of boiled eggs, cooked cold prawn snack pack, yogurt, protein Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, hummus, chick peas & cheese
3. Suggest a healthy eating policy
We have healthy eating policies in our schools and furthermore we expect them. Most of us would be horrified if schools allowed kids to eat the junk that many adults are exposed to in their workplace. Suggest replacing the biscuit tin at work with a fruit bowl. I am not saying we should impose strict rules on individuals, but I think it’s a fair suggestion not to have free access to biscuits and junk in public areas, that’s not to say someone cannot buy themselves a bar of chocolate. I know from clients it is a real struggle resisting biscuits and chocolate at work where they are always there in plain sight.
4. Pack a lunch
Dinner bowl – bring some leftover dinner and reheat at work. A lot of people think they shouldn’t eat dinner twice in the day, is it ok? Well, assuming you make healthy dinners, dinner can be one of the most balanced meals of the day. Dinners tend to contain protein, vegetables and a carbohydrate. Make sure your carbohydrate is wholegrain e.g. wholegrain basmati rice, add lean protein and ½ plate vegetables.
Deconstructed salad – sometimes a salad might not still look very appetizing come lunch time so a little trick here is to bring the components, e.g. protein e.g. tin tuna or cold cooked prawns, ¼ bag lettuce, cherry tomatoes (unchopped), chunk cucumber, chunk red pepper, tsp. seeds in a little container etc.
Deconstructed sandwich – same idea really, if you feel your sandwich looks a bit limp come 1pm, bring the ingredients and put together at work or bring a slice of wholemeal brown bread with a deconstructed salad
5. Keep water at your desk
Sit down at your desk every morning with a lite of water, aim to drink this before lunch and then refill at lunchtime. I like warm water; the trick is to figure out which way you prefer water. Cold, ice-cold, room temp, warm, boiling, sparkling (dentists will caution us not to drink too much carbonated water as it can be damaging for teeth). Some people love a bit of bling with their water! For example, cucumber & mint infused. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, drink more water. Find something that will motivate you, for me it’s my skin, drinking more water is one of the best things you can do for your skin. For others, it may be a lazy bowel or maybe fluid retention. Whatever works for you and whatever motivates you.
6. Avoid the fancy coffee
If you are actively trying to lose weight or manage weight, it is generally a good idea to avoid fancy coffees, avoid sugar, syrups etc. Try to stick to Americanos or smaller milky coffees, 3 full fat lattes a day certainly won’t help your cause.
7. Be wary of liquid calories
In general, it is a good idea to avoid liquid calories. There are a few reasons, people don’t really consider calories from liquids as ‘real’ calories. People don’t actually feel like they have consumed food and therefore they don’t feel like they consumed calories. Liquid calories are not as satisfying as calories from food. Lastly, although juices which have become very popular in recent times, they are not as healthy or satiating as eating whole fruit. Juice lacks fibre, and contains ‘free sugars’. The sugar in fruit is fine when it is consumed as a wholefood but sugar from juice is considered to be part of your total sugar intake. Are juices unhealthy? No, but they are not considered a good option for dental health or weight management. Should we limit them? Yes. I guess they should be considered more like a healthy treat. Most of your liquid should be calorie free, primarily water. Tea, regular coffee, herbal teas are all practically calorie free
8. Late afternoon snacks can be a good idea
It can be a good idea to have a healthy snack before leaving work so you are not ravenous when you get home. People are tired and hungry in the evenings and highly likely to make poor decisions so be prepared, pre-empt this. A late afternoon snack is basically a strategy to reduce picking and snacking while you are waiting for dinner. Another good tip is to keep something healthy in your car e.g. apple/ few nuts (not a big bag of nuts!). We all know snacking on crackers and cheese while preparing dinner can be dangerous, what starts out as 1 cracker with a little cheese ends up being 6 crackers with a lot of cheese!
9. Fuel Stop!
Oh, that dangerous fuel stop! If you can at all avoid stopping for fuel on the way home from work do! This is a time when we are very vulnerable … tired, possibly stressed and very possibly hungry. If you do find yourself in a fuel station at your hour of weakness, remember you only actually have to exert will power for a few minutes. So many people tell me they have no will power, but if you keep telling yourself that you are actually giving yourself permission to be weak. Tell yourself you can be strong for a few minutes while you stand in the queue. If all else fails, go for something like a bag of popcorn, not something like sesame sticks (80g bag is 350 calories, as opposed to a bag of popcorn 140 calories).
10. Working late – take the stress out of the kitchen mid-week
I know from talking to my clients, a really big stressor for people is putting a healthy balanced dinner on the table mid-week. You need to be realistic about your choices if you are cooking at 6 pm in the evening. Do not attempt to make a Bolognese from scratch at 6 pm. I once read the Italians nurse a Bolognese for 24 hrs, not 20 minutes!! So, do your batch cooking when you have time, perhaps at the weekend or at night time. Instead, opt for an omelette when you come in from work and make the big pot when you are not stressed and starving. Always make enough for 3 nights, putting 1 night into the fridge and 2 nights into the freezer. If you did this even once a week you would constantly be adding to your freezer stock.
Believe me, there is nothing more satisfying than a home-cooked dinner on a Wednesday night which doesn’t require prep, cooking or cleaning up! In essence, be fair to yourself and be realistic! There are lots of easy, healthy meals that can be made from scratch in 10 minutes. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you are more likely to give up and opt for processed meals. Don’t snub a quick supper, for example my healthy low calorie pasta carbonara.
Don’t underestimate the small changes you can make yourself at work, they all add up! Plus, don’t forget you spend a third of your day at work, so it’s a significant chunk of your day. If you eat correctly during the day you are less likely to binge at home at night. Even if you are not into bringing lunch to work there are lots of great salad options now. I find people also underestimate the power of their mind, their decision making. Often, if people decide they will have salad most days for lunch, they will actually do that. If you would like to learn more about Paula Duggan Balance Nutrition Corporate Nutrition & Workplace Wellness Talks and Programs, click here.