The global pandemic acutely sharpened our focus on health and safety, and both employers and employees are bringing this heightened awareness into the workplace. The extended period of working from home enabled us to manage our health concerns and general wellness in our own time, in our ways during the working week. Many people reported an improved work-life balance, as well as getting more physical exercise and finding it easier to eat healthily. These were cherished gains during extraordinarily challenging times – and we don’t want to lose them now that we’re transitioning from the work-from-home mode.
With corporate wellness in the spotlight during July, it’s a good opportunity for these company programmes to be reinvigorated with the burgeoning return to the office. Typically, corporate wellness programmes focus on providing health promotion and education, basic health assessments and mental health support. However, due to the sedentary nature of office work and the large number of meals people eat at the office, these wellness programmes need to also incorporate opportunities for daily physical activity and healthy nutrition.
Nelile Nxumalo, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Adsa (The Association for Dietetics in South Africa) outlines the basics of what corporate wellness programmes can provide to enable employees to focus on healthy eating choices. She says: “Employees need to have lunch and tea breaks, and places where they can sit and eat with their colleagues, away from their desks. This avoids a rushed meal that could potentially lead to unhealthy eating habits such as skipping meals but over-consuming calories as you’re always snacking instead of eating a nutritious meal.”
Registered dietitian, Raeesa Seedat, recommends that corporate wellness programmes include nutrition education in their promotion of healthy lifestyles for their employees. She says: “Research suggests that when employees begin a wellness programme with a positive intention at the outset, they are more likely to sustain lifestyle behaviours such as healthy eating, physical activity and stress management. Regular training using relevant and validated tools can empower employees to make better choices for their health, and optimise outcomes. Ideally, a dietitian should be consulted with regards to the composition of meals served at the staff cafeteria and give input on portion control. Catering for corporate events and meetings should also be focused on healthy eating principles.”
No matter what your company provides through its wellness programme, healthy eating during workdays, in the end, is about the food choices you make each day. Registered dietitian, Jandri Barnard, says: “It’s important to avoid the pitfall of just grabbing something quick to eat for a rushed workday lunch, because all too often that’s likely to be highly processed or fast foods that are calorie dense but nutrient poor. With planning and just a bit of time to shop and some preparation, you can set up an entire working week of healthy meals and snacks. Don’t focus only on foods though, because what you drink during the working day counts too. Make a habit of leaving home with a water bottle – you can always add mint, cucumber or lemon for flavour. Limit your caffeine intake by choosing rooibos, fruit and herbal teas when you want a warm drink. Avoid energy drinks and sugary soft drinks.”
Jandri’s top tips for planning, shopping and preparing workday lunches and snacks:
Three dietitian approved, easy recipes that are ideas for workday meals/snacks:
Peanut butter spice granola/bar
As a bar, this is a spicy, fibre-rich on-the-go snack to enjoy while commuting, or between meetings. The granola version can be combined with yoghurt or drinking yoghurt for a workday breakfast or lunchbox alternative. This snack or meal has a lower glycaemic index to prevent blood sugar spikes and feeling an afternoon slump.
Black forest smoothie bowl
An antioxidant morning booster, which can be used as a vegan or dairy-free breakfast option if the cottage cheese is excluded. It is fibre rich with oats and chia seeds to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Moroccan spiced lentil salad with dried apricots and almond flakes
An easy, nutritious salad to pre-prepare for work or have as a load shedding meal after work. This tasty salad is packed with vitamins, low fat protein and fibre with dried fruit, nuts and spices for extra zing and comfort.
Visit nutritionconfidence.wordpress.com for more recipes.