The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

You Are What You Eat

15 July 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

Gabriella Roberts, a Nutritionist at BaxterStorey’s food development team that produces tools for managers and healthy recipes for customers to enjoy, shows how to fight obesity in the workplace.

Obesity levels in the UK have trebled in the last 30 years and we now have the highest level in Western Europe.

The cause of this rapid rise has been blamed on our modern lifestyles, including our reliance on cars, technology, high calorie food and crucially, desk-bound jobs. Poor diet costs countries around the world up to 20% in lost productivity whereas organisations that implement wellbeing programmes enjoy benefits including reduced sickness absence, improved productivity and a reduction in staff turnover.

It is reported that over half of UK workers skip breakfast leading to reduced productivity. However, eating breakfast wakes up the metabolism to start burning calories and breakfast skippers are also more likely to be overweight and over-eat later in the day. Giving employees the option of a balanced breakfast at work could improve brain function, concentration, memory and mood.

Sitting at a desk for most of the day can also encourage mindless eating with foods chosen for ease rather than their nutritional content. Dips in energy throughout the day can lead to a vicious circle of snacking with the aim of improving energy levels.

Many customers turn to caffeinated drinks or high sugar snacks to help them through the slumps. This caffeine and sugar ‘hit’ only gives a momentary burst of energy before levels once again dip lower than they were originally. This cycle can cause knock-on side effects, e.g. insomnia and dehydration, ultimately having an adverse impact on a worker’s productivity and general wellbeing.


Making healthier choices

Rather than relying on highly processed foods or energy drinks, management should encourage employees and customers to think more carefully about their choices.

If I can cite my own company, we have aimed at educating both employees and employers about the importance of wellness at work, Our Healthy Me programme offers guidance on exciting healthy food swaps, recipes and nutritional advice. The programme challenges common workplace nutritional mistakes such as missing breakfast.

The key to a healthy diet is moderation and balance. No one food contains all the essential nutrients our body needs, so it is essential to have created a programme of recipes using nutrient-rich ingredients, proven to increase productivity and energy levels.

To combat energy slumps, it is crucial to maintain a constant source of glucose as this can directly affect productivity. Our bodies break down carbohydrate in the foods we eat and convert it into glucose. However, when it comes to selecting carbohydrates, it is important to choose wholegrain sources with recipes using ingredients such as brown bread and pasta, quinoa and brown rice as opposed to refined white carbohydrates. Unrefined options are not only more nutritious but enable our bodies to maintain a steadier release of glucose without the peaks and dips.

Substituting traditionally popular workplace snacks with healthier options is also a good way to combat those peaks and dips and maintain a healthier workplace lifestyle.

Popular healthy versions of workplace treats my company has developed include beetroot brownies – a more nutritionally balanced sweet treat, beetroot provides an excellent source of folic acid and fibre.

Food is essential to a productive workplace and not only will productivity be increased in the long term but taking a lunch break will also help to alleviate health problems and improve wellbeing. Healthy eating is about education and choice. The offering should be fresh, seasonal, of good provenance and interesting to keep customers involved.

*Gabriella, BaxterStorey, is helping organisations challenge common workplace mistakes, such as missing breakfast, sitting at a desk all day and snacking.

Picture: Missing breakfasts and gorging on junk food offer nothing to the staff or workplaces in terms of personal health or productivity 



Article written by Gabriella Roberts | Published 15 July 2016