Workplace Health and Wellbeing - Nutrition
All aspects of health and wellbeing are intertwined. The food you eat affects the physical activity you can do, which affects your mood, which affects your thoughts, which affects your work, your relationships and your choices. By supporting your employees to make healthy food choices, you are helping them build healthy habits and perform at their best.
Step one in adopting a healthy diet is understanding the benefits of balanced and nutritious food choices. For starters, you should be eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. The 5 A Day campaign follows guidance from the World Health Organization. The WHO recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
In addition to eating plenty of healthy, nutritious and tasty food, aim to minimise the amount of junk food you consume. It is no secret that these foods - crisps, chocolate, sweets, sugary drinks - don’t do your short or long term health any favours. These foods can affect how your brain functions, causing memory and learning problems, reducing appetite control, and creating chemical reactions that can lead to depression. More immediate harms from indulging in junk food include headaches, bloating, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, acne and damage to your teeth.
Eating the right amount of varied nutritious food is the essence of a good diet. Each person is different, of course, and there is no single diet that works for all people. The following principles of healthy eating will serve you and your employees well in the pursuit of good physical and mental wellbeing:
Eat a variety of different foods.
You have to eat a range of different foods to get all the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals you need for good health.
Staple foods should make up the largest part of a meal.
Unrefined staples like whole grains, brown unpolished rice and potatoes provide sustained energy over a long period of time and are also a good source of protein and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Staples include cereals such as rice and oats, pulses such as lentils, beans and chickpeas, and starchy roots such as potatoes. Refined foods like white rice and white flour have much less nutrients and fibre.
Drink plenty of water.
Drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before you have a meal can make you feel fuller and thus more likely to eat less and reduce calorie intake. Staying hydrated throughout the day can also make you more alert and make you feel less fatigued.
Eat vegetables and fruits every day.
As mentioned, fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. They contain the vitamins and minerals that keep the body functioning and the immune system strong. Eat a wide variety as each one provides different vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
Keep saturated fats and sugar to a minimum.
Fats and sugars are good sources of energy but they are not rich in nutrients. They should therefore be eaten moderately in addition to other foods, not instead of them.
Eat the right amount of food to keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
The correct amount of food for an individual will depend on a range of factors including age, sex and lifestyle. Eat well in combination with plenty of regular physical activity to reap rewards in the form of good mental and physical wellbeing.
Encourage your employees to follow these dietary principles to look after their health and the health of your organisation. Eating well and knowing that you’re doing so is part of enjoying health as its own reward.