Healthy eating to improve productivity in the workplace

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Health Assured team

07 January 2015

Have you ever noticed how food can affect more than your bodyweight?

Food choices impact our health, wellness, mood and energy levels. Here’s how food can improve your performance and mental health at work.

The decisions we make about food, drink and snacks has huge knock-on effects on our immediate and long-term mood, energy levels and productivity. Making better food choices can even have a positive effect on absence rates at work.

Do you experience the classic 3pm-energy slump? Are you constantly topping up your coffee cup at work? Can you get through the afternoon without biscuits?

There’s a better way to feel energised, awake and motivated.

Stay hydrated. Most of us don’t drink enough water (or any non-caffeinated, non-sugary drink). Make a conscious effort to drink more water. Have a 2l bottle on your desk and finish it before you go home. Or try a 1.5l bottle…but the challenge is to drink it all, then refill it and drink that, too. Being hydrated will improve brain function, make you more accurate and less prone to mistakes, help you feel alert and awake, and stop you from snacking on those foods you’re trying to avoid.

Eat breakfast. No matter how rushed you are in the morning, make it your job to eat breakfast. If needs be, prepare something the night before and either eat it before leaving home or take it to work. Try Greek yoghurt with oats and nuts mixed in and left in the fridge overnight, or a couple of hardboiled eggs. Porridge can be made in the staff microwave in a few minutes.

Bring your own food to work. Stay in control of your own food and you can’t waver off your healthy eating plan. Yes, it takes time, but it will save you money. Just a generation ago, everyone would have taken their food for the day with them. We’ve got out of the habit, and it’s costing us money and our health. Take your lunch and a couple of snacks (and that big bottle of water).

Think about snacks. Often it’s not the meals we eat but the snacks we choose which derail our healthy eating efforts. Be aware of the little details of your dietary day: the biscuit you grab whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, the muffin you add to your order at the coffee shop, the handful of sweets you take from the bowl on reception. It all adds up.

Stock your office drawer. What do you do when hunger strikes? If you don’t have access to healthy food, you’ll head to the shop, vending machine or biscuit tin. So, see off temptation by keeping your office or drawer stocked with healthy options which you know you’ll love. Try bags of raw and unsalted nuts, packets of beef jerky, small pots of oats which can be made into porridge or healthy energy bars (read the label to make sure they’re not chocolate bars in disguise!) for options with a long shelf life. Add fresh vegetables, fruit, tubs of berries, or Greek yoghurt for perishable options.

Omega 3s for brainpower. Omega 3 fatty acids are the healthiest fats we can eat. They’re found in oily, cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout. We can also get them from walnuts and flaxseeds. So try eating oily fish at least 3 times a week for lunch and watch your brainpower soar in the afternoon.


Celebrate and support Senior Citizens Day

21st August is “Senior Citizens Day”. It’s a day of recognition which started in the USA, but we think it’s something to celebrate over here, too.

It was actually Ronald Reagan who set 21st August as Senior Citizens Day: in his 1988 Presidential Proclamation, he said: continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older.”

What could you do to improve your workplace, community or local area for any older people you know?

People are working longer and living longer, meaning there are increasing numbers of older people in the workplace and also in their retirement years. The workplace is a good place to start recognising Senior Citizens Day.

What is your organisation’s policy about hiring and training older people? Does this extend to part-time and contract roles as well as full-time positions? What training do you have in place for older employees to bring IT, technology and online skills up to speed?

August 21st this year is a Thursday - not traditionally a particularly sociable day of the week. Maybe you could arrange to pop in and spend a little time with any older people you know who live alone or who are physically impaired in some way.

According to Age UK, 1 million older people in the UK haven’t spoken to anybody in a month. Elderly people often find themselves alone after long marriages, and loneliness is a real factor for many older people.

Do you know your neighbours? Are any of them older people? When was the last time you popped round to see how they are, to ask if you could help with any errands or chores around the house and garden? Or perhaps the idea of supporting older people interests you beyond just one day. Could this be the year that you apply to volunteer with Age UK?

The charity needs volunteers, fundraisers and supporters in all sorts of roles, from corporate partners, to fundraisers, to volunteers out in the community.

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