Alberta Cancer Foundation

Food for Life: Eating healthy at work

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Did you know that employees spend about 60 per cent of their waking hours at work and eat at least one meal while on shift? This means that making healthy food and drink choices at work can have an impact on health and energy levels.

Use the tips below to help you be fuelled and energized for your workday, whether you pack your meals from home or not. As a rule of thumb at each meal, aim to have three to four of the food groups from the website, Eating Well With Canada’s Food Guide.

Break the Fast
Start your workday with a healthy meal to help boost your nutrient intake, energy and memory. This can also help you manage your weight and possibly improve your eating habits during your shift. If you don’t have an appetite when you first wake up, try starting with one or two foods at a time. Here are examples:

  • Small whole grain muffin, barley, quinoa or oat porridge
  • Lower fat cheese, milk or plain yogurt
  • Hard-boiled egg or nut butter
  • Apple, banana or carrots

Lunch, Anyone?
Try one of these new ideas to keep things exciting and healthy:

  • Lunch Bowl: Brown rice or quinoa, red peppers, avocado, salsa, cheese and black beans or chicken are always great options.
  • Snazzy Salad: Arugula, strawberries, pears, goat cheese and almonds or pecans. Drizzle with balsamic dressing. Add a whole grain bun and voila!
  • This and That: Greek yogurt, whole grain crackers, hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit can spice up lunchtime.

Snack Smart
If you choose to snack throughout the workday, try to opt for:

  • Whole grain crackers
  • Raw vegetables
  • Small can of tuna

Dinner is Served
If eating out with co-workers, choose restaurants offering healthy choices. Once there, try to:

  • Reduce the serving size by asking for a half-portion, share with others or save the leftovers for another meal.
  • Choose dishes that are steamed, grilled or roasted.
  • Order your sauces and dressings on the side and use only small amounts of these.
  • Order vegetables or a salad as a side dish.

Rethink That Drink
Drinks with added sugar, such as coffee with syrups or regular pop, add extra calories and do not help you feel full. Here are some tips for choosing healthy drinks:

  • Drink water throughout the day: Bring a water bottle to work to stay hydrated throughout the workday.
  • Lighten up your coffee or tea: Reduce the cream and sugar you add to your coffee or tea. Consider switching to lower fat milk.
  • Shrink your drink: If you have beverages that contain sugar or fat (like soft drinks, specialty coffees, sports drinks or energy drinks), choose a smaller size.
  • Meet your fluid needs: Get the recommended nine to 12 cups (two to three litres) for adults of fluids per day. Water, milk, tea and coffee count towards this. Remember that adults should limit caffeine to no more than 400 milligrams per day. This is equal to two to three cups of coffee (550-750 millilitres) of fluid per day.

Remember that making healthy choices at meal and break times is important to staying fuelled throughout your shift.

To promote healthy eating at work with your co-workers, participate in a fun four-week free healthy eating challenge! Enter healthy eating challenge tool kit in the search box to find everything you need to run a healthy eating challenge at work.

Karol Sekulic is a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services who has expertise and interest in the areas of weight management, nutrition and communications.

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