THE workplace has been fingered for its hand in employees developing a host of chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes as well as increasing the risk of conditions such as obesity. This, according to clinical nutritionist Dr Kimberley Sommerville, is largely because the workplace reinforces unhealthy eating patterns among employees, making maintaining a clean, healthy diet near impossible for many nine-to-fivers.
Want to know if your workplace is conspiring against a much healthier you? Below, with the guidance of Dr Sommerville, we explore ten ways your workplace is sabotaging your diet:
1. Lack of diversity with cooked food
“Eating protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates is important, but may [be] a little difficult when most of our cooked meals are 50 to 70 per cent white rice (simple carbohydrates) and the protein is usually chicken,” Dr Sommerville explained. Not only is this not ideal for dietary balance, but she further shared that this often causes people to become so bored with the limited lunch menu that they veer off to unhealthy snacks.
2. No designated breaks to snack
Most workplaces only allow one lunch break. This means that employees are on the clock and have very little freedom to grab a snack. “This leads to hunger to the point of being famished. When we get to this point, we're ready to eat any and everything that's in sight; from sweets to pastries just to increase our blood sugar,” Dr Sommerville said.
3. Hectic work environment, no time for lunch
Many people can sometimes go through the entire workday without having a single bite. It's not that they are not hungry or prefer to wait until after work, but the demands of work can become so overwhelming that the time slips by and they don't realise, or there is a lack of structure which prevents them from getting a break, for example.
4. Junk food-filled vending machines
Vending machines are a haven for unhealthy snack options from fizzy, sugary drinks to salty, calorie-filled chips. Unfortunately, because many people have so little time to source something for lunch and to eat, they sometimes choose foods from the vending machines since it's more convenient.
5. Homemade food isn't cool
“Following the crowd, we generally want to fit in, and eating another home-cooked meal may not be 'cool' in your office setting,” Dr Sommerville said. People also want to avoid people who get sensitive about the smell of some meals when heated, or who just want to get a peek in your dish and sometimes start uncomfortable conversations about the appearance of your food, how you prepared it or just wanting to know what you made for dinner at home (presuming you shared your lunch from dinner the previous night).
6. No regard for portions or balanced meals
Most canteens provide carbs, protein and maybe some vegetables as their lunchtime meals. Also, unlike at home, there is no respect for portions, and many of us are usually so famished when we finally get a break that we just gobble down what is on our plates or in our boxes to satisfy our hunger.
7. Sugary options with our meals
Not only are sugary options cheaper, sometimes offered at a reduced price with your meals, or even free, but they are sometimes the only available option in the canteen at work. Many people don't realise the effect these sugary fluids can have on their bodies; however, you might want to go for water instead. Take it from home in your cute, fancy bottle if you must.
8. Little or no appropriate storage
Some people don't mind people whispering about what they brought for lunch; however, many workplaces do not provide staff with appropriate storage appliances for those who would much prefer to bring healthier lunches prepared at home. In the absence of a refrigerator, employees run the risk of their meals going bad before lunch or not having any equipment to reheat food, if it is that they have a portable cooling accessory or were able to refrigerate the food.
9. Eating too quickly
Eating lunch at work is always a race against time. Where did the 30 minutes go? Probably spent trying to choose from the boring workplace canteen menu. By the time most of us settle to eat, we have no time but to gobble down our meals before heading back to work. But wolfing your meal down could contribute to you gaining extra pounds because you don't allow your body to properly process the food, causing you to eat more than you need.
10. Food-pushing work colleagues
We know them very well, the food-pushing work colleagues who love to cook and bake and will turn up every day or ever so often with our favourite sugary pastries and drinks. Learn to politely decline, or take it, if you don't want to offend him/her, and give it to someone else.
Dr Kimberley Sommerville is a clinical nutritionist at Imara Medical, Suite 20 Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road. She can be reached online at simplesommernaturals.com.