How to eat and drink more healthily at work: Top tips to improve your performance

Research has proved that a combination of healthy eating, hydration and active living can work wonders for our bodies and minds. This simple combo can help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer; increase energy and self-esteem; improve your mood and decrease anxiety and stress. But what does this mean for our workforce? Simple. They are healthier, happier and more productive – no brainer, right?!

In our busy modern-day, stress-laden world, it can often be hard to find the time to prioritise nutrition and hydration. We are too busy. Too tired. Too harassed. We start the week with good intentions but come Tuesday lunchtime, we’re back to our old ways, the excuses tumbling out like a well-worn mantra. “It’s hard to eat healthily when you’re in back to back meetings, I never get to leave my desk, I don’t get a lunchtime, I don’t have time to make things in advance..” 

The funny thing is that if we could just get into a routine, the benefits would soon outweigh the (perceived) hassle. We’d have tonnes more energy to actually ‘do’ the new routine and we’d see it as less of a chore and more of a game changer.

But change is hard. And we all need a little helping hand now and again…

To celebrate Nutrition and Hydration Week we’ve put together a few tips to help you stay hydrated and eat more healthily at work.

Check them out.

1. Be Prepared. Think about what you are going to eat for lunch when you do your shopping list. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting all fired up in the evening and realising all you have in your cupboards are chocolate biscuits and super noodles. Think about what you might need for the week ahead and stock up.

2. Water at breakfast. Don’t automatically reach for the caffeinated hot drinks as soon as you wake up. A pint of water in the morning will refresh you and get you off to a great start. The coffee and tea can come later.

3. Don’t skip breakfast. It’s easy to opt for an extra few minutes in bed than taking the time to eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast. But choose wisely and you’ll see the payoff later on. Without breakfast your energy will soon fall, and your tummy will groan with the demand for snacks. Filling up first thing will reduce that late morning lethargy when temptation knocks you off that well-intentioned wagon.

Breakfast and dinner can often be easier to manage. But what about when you’re actually at work? You don’t have your stove, your cookbooks and favourite utensils to hand and you’ve got a really tight window. Same goes for drinks. When you’re busy and rushing round it is easy to let several hours pass without taking in any fluids. Just how do you overcome these limitations?

4. Storage Wars. Your lunch bag needs to keep food fresh and unsquashed and for those winter months, try investing in a thermos to keep hot foods, hot.

5. Water bottle. Treat yourself to a refillable water bottle that can easily be carried around with you or popped in a bag or car. Make sure it has a secure lid. Motivational messages are optional.

6. Use leftovers. If you’re making healthy meals in the evening, scale up the amount and save some for the next day. Leftovers can be eaten hot or cold. Try keeping extra condiments and sauces at work to add flavour where needed.

7. Water, water everywhere… Keep a large refillable bottle or glass of water on your desk and keep topping it up throughout the day. Aim for at least 6 glasses. This will also encourage you to keep getting up and having a break from the screen (not only to refill your bottle but also to go to the toilet. Both valid ways to get you up and moving…)

8. Batch cook. You might work long hours and have no time in the evenings, or you prefer to spend time with family and friends. Try batch cooking healthy soups and casseroles, freezing individual portions for lunches throughout the week. The internet is full of tasty and healthy recipes. Give it a whirl on a Saturday morning.

9. Lemon break. If you struggle to drink water on its own, try adding a slice of lemon or lime for a dash of flavour.

10. Start a lunch club. Get together with a group of friends and take turns with your batch cooking. This is a great way to get more variety, experiment with new flavours and get social.

11. Don’t eat at your desk. Value your lunch break and eat away from your desk. Find a space outside, take a walk, spend it with friends. Taking a break from your workspace will enable you to get fresh air, clear your head and you’ll probably eat your food more slowly and mindfully, rather than having one eye on the screen in front of you. Don’t forget to take your bottle of water with you…

12. Have breakfast for lunch. If you struggle with taking in healthy meals, why not try having a second breakfast at lunchtime? Try porridge, fruit, cereals and low-fat yoghurts – a great way to get a good mix of food groups and often easier to carry and store than a full meal. Add a nice fruit juice to top up your liquid intake – but keep an eye on sugar content.

13. Hide some healthy snacks. Have a stash of healthy snacks in your drawer for when you’re feeling peckish. Try nuts, dried fruit, crackers, granola or rice cakes. It will give you an extra boost of energy and keep you away from the vending machine…

14. Get real about what is healthy. Find out more about what is healthy and what isn’t. There are lots of myths around certain foods. The British Heart Foundation have a great booklet to guide you through the process ‘Eat well guide’ which can be found online. Also pay attention to ingredients on labels and keep an eye on calories, salt and fat content. Also look out for sugar content and caffeine in drinks. Caffeine can dehydrate you and sugar gives you a short burst of energy… but quickly wears off.

15. Don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone has good days and bad days. Set realistic goals for yourself and if you fall off the wagon, just write it off and promise yourself you’ll do better tomorrow. Eating healthily and staying hydrated is supposed to be reducing anxiety and stress – not adding to it!

16. Learn to say no! Birthday cakes, celebration buns and Friday morning bacon butties. When everyone else is indulging, it can be hard to say no, and you don’t want to offend anyone. But a polite no thanks shouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings and if you’re on a roll and doing well, don’t let someone else knock you off your stride. (Of course, if you’ve been good all week and you fancy a treat, then go ahead. Being healthy is all about moderation. Have that cake. Just make sure you take the stairs later on instead of the elevator!)

How can employers help?

Organise a healthy eating workplace promotion to help provide your employees with information and ideas.

1. Provide free water butts around the building for all departments to access.

2. Think about providing staff with branded water bottles for use at work – and at home.

3.Provide water and juices in meetings rather than the standard coffee and tea.

4. Replace sugary meeting snacks such as donuts with healthy muffins, snack bars or fruit.

5. Provide kitchen facilities with fridges and microwaves so employees can bring in, store and prepare healthy meals and drinks.

6. Encourage employees to leave their desks for lunch by having clean and bright areas for people to eat. If you are lucky to have outside space, try having picnic tables or benches with sheltered covers for greyer days.

7. Reduce the amount of sugary drinks and snacks available in vending machines. Replace with healthier options.

8. If you have catering available, review the menu and offering regularly. Try consulting with staff on menus and think about applying special offers or discounts on healthy options.

9. Partner up with local businesses to offer free fruit, flavoured water or healthy snacks at breaktimes.

If you would like to help your staff get up to speed with healthy lifestyle options why not organise a workplace health promotion? Our knowledgeable occupational health advisors can provide you with resources, activities and demonstrations on nutrition, hydration and exercise. Call us today on 01228 513687.