Between meetings, deadlines, projects and all the many demands of a full schedule, maintaining a healthy diet at work might fall as a low priority. Factor in limited time for eating and ample access to vending machines, snacks, doughnuts, and other junk foods, the workplace can derail the best-intentioned diet.
The reality is that healthy eating is not only important for maintaining your health but also for maximizing your work productivity. Research has revealed that employees who consume an unhealthy diet are 66 percent more likely to experience a loss in productivity compared to those who regularly eat fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat foods and whole grains.
The benefits of healthy eating
While eating a balanced diet at work might feel like a cumbersome task, the numerous short- and long-term benefits can help keep you motivated. The foundation of health and longevity is built on good nutrition. Eating well and adequately nourishing your body can contribute to the following benefits:
Improved mood, and decreased stress and anxiety
Lower disease risk and fewer health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, some types of cancer and depression
Maintenance of healthy weight
With health and productivity directly related to how and what you eat, it is important to consider changes in your diet, beginning in your workplace, to help support your health.
Simple steps to help you succeed
Achieving health through your diet can happen gradually over time with simple steps. Even the smallest changes in your habits and lifestyle can lead to significant improvements in your health. The following three suggestions can help you get started and, ultimately, succeed in your quest to maintain a healthy workplace diet:
1. Plan ahead. Benjamin Franklin said the oft-quoted maxim, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This can easily be observed in a work environment where a plethora of non-nutritious foods can be found in abundance. If you fail to take the time to plan and prepare healthy snacks and meals for yourself in advance, you might find yourself eating whatever is available in the work environment. Plan some time in your schedule, either the night or morning before work, to put together some simple but healthy snacks to take to work. This can include any variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, trail mix, low-fat yogurt and granola, protein bars, whole grain crackers with cheese, and more. Having a healthy snack between meals can help keep your blood sugar stable, which can keep you energized throughout the day and prevent blood glucose crashes that might cause you to eat whatever is available.
2. Watch what you put in your cup. Coffee is a common staple in many work environments and, with easy access, your cup of morning Joe can turn into your all-day beverage. While the caffeine in coffee can contribute to your much-needed energy boost to get through the day, excessive coffee can leave your body dehydrated. If you are adding cream and sugar to your coffee, your much-beloved drink can also contribute to excessive fat and sugar in your diet. Try switching up your beverages and aim to increase your water intake. Drink sufficient water to stay healthy and hydrated. Keep a bottle at your desk and aim to drink it throughout the day. For added flavor without extra calories, add fresh fruit or cucumber slices to your water bottle for a refreshing drink.
3. Be mindful of your lunch choices. Whether eating out at a restaurant or within your office, what you have for lunch can contribute to how you feel for the rest of your day. Aim for a lunch that includes a balance of whole grains, lean protein and/or dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Many restaurants today feature healthier fare on their menus. Be mindful of how much you are eating as well. If you are eating out, consider eating a portion of your meal and packing the rest to take home for later. Eating a lighter lunch can prevent energy crashes in the afternoon and help you stay focused during the rest of your work day. Take the time to eat your lunch free from work distractions. Attempting to eat while multi-tasking can often lead to overeating and poorer food choices.
Making healthy choices in your work environment can contribute to increased work productivity and, more importantly, to your overall health and wellness.