Employee Power

Take control of your nutrition at work

While some things may be out of your control as an office employee, it’s important to take responsibility for the content of your lunch plate and your eating behaviours as much as possible.

Planning for success

Start by taking some time to plan your weekly food intake. This will entail doing a good supermarket shop approximately once a week that includes items that can be made into a packed lunch – salads of lean meats or fish, wholegrain bread for sandwiches, oatcakes and brown rice.

Make sure your shopping basket includes healthy snacks such as almonds and walnuts, yoghurt and plenty of fresh fruit. Portion out these snacks to take in to work – for example, an orange and a few walnuts in the morning break and a banana and some yoghurt in the afternoon. Eaten on its own, fruit can cause a blood sugar spike as high amounts of fructose are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream so try to combine it with protein.

Consider keeping a food diary, noticing how you feel when you’re tempted to snack or how much more productive you are if you don’t have that coffee and doughnut.

Get out, don’t stress out

Make plans for your lunch break either by plotting out a route to take a short walk or jog or by arranging to eat lunch with your colleagues. Once you’ve made a commitment to yourself or to others, it’s easier to tear yourself away from your desk. And try setting an alarm on your watch or mobile phone as a reminder that it’s your lunch break and time to get away from your desk.

Don’t go it alone

You might even want to find a nutrition partner in your office – someone you check in with when you’re tempted by the vending machine or feel too stressed to take a break from your work. You could arrange to take short breaks together, which will ensure you take a breather.

On a broader level, think about motivating a group of colleagues to create a lunch club or ‘people’s pantry’, to be held once a week or more often if possible. Every week, workers can bring in a healthy lunch offering to share or everyone donates some money for a communal supermarket shop that includes healthy items. You’ll find your money goes a lot further when it’s shared, your lunch hour is a lot more fun when spent chatting with colleagues and that you feel refreshed and ready to get back to work in the afternoon.

Creating a healthy canteen culture

More employers are aware of the benefits of good nutrition than ever before, but if your office has no cooking or food preparation facilities and an unhealthy canteen menu, you will have to take the first step.

Think about creating your own employee wellness programme, incorporating newsletters with information on nutrition and health and simple exercise tips like suggesting workers take the stairs over the lifts. And find out what the employees of other companies are doing to promote wellness – it’s an easy way to discover what works and what doesn’t.

You could also form a liaison committee to speak to management about upgrading kitchen facilities or improving the canteen menu. Arm yourselves with plenty of evidence – on the benefits of sound nutrition in the workplace and the risks of unhealthy eating and snacking – and foster as much support as you can from your co-workers. You might want to gather signatures or conduct a survey to demonstrate support for your initiative. Finally, try campaigning for small changes, like more employee involvement in choosing the canteen menu; healthier vending machine content; free fruit on offer to staff; and a once-weekly ban on employees eating lunch at their desks.