Never mind failing to eat healthily during the course of their working days, various sources suggest that anywhere between 10% and 20% of workers never take a lunch break at all, often as a direct result of heavy workloads. Even when they do, eating seems to be fairly low on the agenda, with many employees using their meal breaks to do their personal chores instead. As a report entitled Reclaim the Lunchbreak which was issued earlier this year by Bupa Healthcare noted, however, this had led to UK workers’ productivity plummeting at around three in the afternoon, resulting in the loss of almost 40 minutes per person per day, at a cost of almost £50 million per day to employers.
Leaving aside the cost to businesses of poor eating habits, however, failing to eat at regular times and to take in the right amount of nutrients takes a direct toll on workers’ health. Not only does it cause energy levels to crash, but the whole feast and famine routine can even lead to conditions such as stomach ulcers. Snacking from the chocolate machine or picking up a take-out from the local fast food joint isn’t the answer either though, as it still leaves the body deprived of the essential goodness that we need to keep us firing on all cylinders. What can you do to ensure that you eat more healthily at work then? Here are a few top tips on what and how to eat to keep body and mind at peak performance.
- Although many of us have grown up with the idea that we need three square meals a day, recommendations nowadays tend to lean towards three lighter meals and two snacks spaced evenly throughout the day.
- If, like me, you’re one of those people who just can’t manage a full breakfast as soon as you roll out of bed in the morning, do at least try to eat something to get your metabolism going and give you a kick start. Bananas are great for slow-release energy and a very valuable source of potassium, so if you can’t manage anything else, then at least eat a banana.
- When it comes to the snacks that you eat during the day, avoid anything with a high sugar content. It might give you a short burst of energy, but when your body has metabolized the sugar, you’ll just crash and burn. Stick to healthy options such as carrot sticks, whole grain crackers or cereal bars instead, but do check the latter because even some of these are high in sugar. Fruits and yoghurts are ideal as snacks too.
- Forget buying out for lunch and brown bag it instead. Not only will you save a fortune, but you will know exactly what has gone into your meal. While salads make for a healthy lunch which is quick and easy to prepare in advance, you don’t have to restrict yourself solely to “rabbit food.” Dishes based on brown rice or pasta which can be eaten cold or warmed up in the office microwave are great for slow-release energy and help to introduce a bit of variety into your diet. Beans, pulses and tinned fish such as tuna are also excellent choices.
- Whatever you choose to eat at lunchtime, make a point of getting away from your desk and sit down somewhere where you can enjoy and savor your food properly. If you stay where you are, you are still going to be bothered by distractions and the likelihood is that you will end up bolting your meal, which won’t just lead to digestive problems, but will also leave you feeling dissatisfied. If the weather is fine, ideally try to get outside to eat and then take a brisk walk to help you feel rejuvenated.
- Make sure that you drink plenty of plain water throughout the day. In keeping the body properly hydrated, you will also improve your levels of concentration
- Don’t overdo it on the caffeine front. As with sugar, when the caffeine high wears off, you will be left feeling tired and lethargic. Also, never drink coffee after 3pm as this will interfere with getting a good night’s sleep.
- Trying to make a shift towards healthier eating habits can be difficult at first, so plan to eat out just once a week as a special treat for doing so well.