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Does your workplace promote healthy eating?

Eating well during the work day can come with a few challenges. Accredited Practising Dietitian Simone Austin dreams of workplaces that make healthy eating easy.

Healthy snack at office workplace. Eating organic vegan meals from take away lunch box at wooden working table with computer keyboard, top view

We spend a lot of our waking hours at work, and naturally eat one or more meals and snacks while we’re there. If we estimate one meal a day, five days a week, that’s close to 25% of our weekly meals eaten at work. Add snacks on top of that, and you can see it really does matter to our health what we’re eating there.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a workplace that made the healthy food choices the easy ones?

Healthy eating is one part of workplace wellness that goes a long way to increasing overall productivity, mental health, so it’s well worth the investment.

We know food can affect:

  • Mood. Grumpy when hungry? Not what we want for positive workplace relationships!
  • Energy levels. Do you feel your energy drop mid-afternoon, or if you’ve flown out of bed and skipped breakfast, or you’ve done a double shift and run out of food?
  • Immune function. This is a complex system, but we know vitamin C, zinc, B group vitamins and protein are all essential to help fight off dreaded bugs.
  • Risk of chronic disease. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers can all be impacted negatively with a poor diet.

Healthy workers are likely to take less sick days and have more energy. And if workers feel cared about, this will lead to higher morale. In turn, all of these factors can contribute to greater productivity.

There are numerous studies looking at chronic disease and health of workers where food has a role to play. According to a 2011 study from the University of Copenhagen published in Perspectives in Public Health, having high cholesterol could have a similar effect on days off work as stress – around 10 days per year.

What could workplaces do to encourage healthy food choices? Here are a few ideas.

Breakfasts

Some workplaces have taken the step of providing breakfast supplies, with options like cereal, milk, yoghurt, fruit and bread (let’s go for wholegrain), which is perfect if you have done some early-morning training with your work colleagues or are running late for work.

If your workplace can’t do this, think about setting up a stock of your own with some colleagues, as long as you have access to adequate fridge space (that is cleaned out!) and some cupboards to store dry goods.

Smart snacks

Snacks of fresh fruit, carrots, nuts, yoghurt, wholegrain dry biscuits and cheese are great choices instead of a tin of sweet biscuits.

Nearby options

What healthy lunch options are available to purchase nearby? Could your workplace negotiate a discount deal for workers on a healthy meal choice of the day?

Healthy lunches and morning teas

Catered work lunches and morning teas can do better than those huge muffins, which (let’s face it) are simply cakes. Instead, try smaller sizes and ingredients like rolled oats, nuts, fruit, chia seeds, and even savoury muffins with vegetables in them.

Other great options are a fresh fruit platter, fresh sandwiches, wraps, salads (more than lettuce, with ideas like grain-based salads, roasted vegetables, Asian slaws), soups, rice paper rolls, nuts, seeds, dried fruit or yoghurt tubs.

Combined birthday celebrations

Try organising a day a month for all the birthdays in that month, rather than having cake for each one. Have cake with other choices like fresh berries, nuts, or dip (yoghurt or legume base) and vegetables, so people can make a choice.

Social sharing

You could start a social activity where people are rostered on to bring in a meal once a month to share – think, soup, salad or curry days.

For more on healthy eating, find an Accredited Practising Dietitian at daa.asn.au

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