Eat your way to a healthier workforce

Advice and top tips

Eat your way to a healthier workforce

It can be quite a challenge to maintain mental alertness, consistent energy levels and productivity at work as deadlines, meetings and conflicting priorities take their toll.

Small changes to the food and drink consumed in the workplace can increase the ability to focus throughout the day, keep illnesses to a minimum and boost feelings of wellbeing.

Our recent Global Benefits and Attitudes Survey found that nearly half (49%) of UK employees now expect their employer to actively encourage workers to lead healthier lifestyles.

Here, we look at five simple, yet effective, ways to optimise brain function, achieve consistent energy levels and support overall health throughout the working day.

1. Kick start body and mind

As we effectively fast overnight, having sustenance in the morning to set both body and mind up for the day ahead makes perfect sense.

A study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted the benefits of the humble egg. Eggs are a good source of brain protective antioxidants and B vitamins helping the body to release energy from food. They also include choline, improving memory and reaction times and cholesterol which is important for brain cells.

Adding antioxidant-rich blueberries to cereal, pancakes, yoghurt or within a smoothie can boost brain power and ward off Alzheimers according to recent US research.

The benefits of oats are much documented. Porridge for breakfast can help to prevent sugar spikes, lowers the risk of obesity and its low acting carbohydrates optimise brain performance.

For more brain stimulating breakfast ideas click here.

2. Sustain energy and productivity

According to recent research, 75% of workers are at their most productive between 9-11am. Not surprisingly, it also found that energy levels are generally at their lowest after lunch between 2-3pm.

Arranging meetings and encouraging employees to carry out priority and more complex tasks in the morning, can maximise productivity.

Afternoons can be a struggle resulting in reduced efficiency as both energy and concentration levels naturally wane.  Bringing a packed lunch to work can save time and money, but more importantly, also avoids the dash for unhealthy options when hunger strikes – potentially leading to sugar spikes followed by an unhelpful energy crash.

Getting the right balance of foods at the mid-way point in the day will refuel the mind and support consistent energy. High quality proteins such as salmon or soy products for vegetarians, can help maintain adequate energy levels for those afternoon deadlines and meetings.

Incorporating complex carbs like beans, brown rice, sweet potatoes, chick peas and grainy bread at lunch fuels the body and brain when it’s most needed as they are converted into energy boosting glucose.

For more energy packed lunch ideas click here.

3. Get creative with hydration

We all know that we need to drink more and that feelings of thirst mean that the body is already dehydrated. Affecting mood, energy, attention, memory and motor co-ordination – dehydration can make getting through the day more difficult than it needs to be.

Drinking glass after glass of water however, is not the only way to avoid this. Did you know that cucumber is 96% water, tomatoes 95% and broccoli 90%?  Replace the obligatory meeting room biscuits with water rich snacks such as cherry tomatoes or grapes to perk attention levels and focus. Have an ice-cold jug of water with sliced lemons, kiwi, strawberries, lime or fresh mint instead of tea and coffee.

The cold temperature of the water will help quick absorption into the body according to a study by Columbia University.

Baby cucumbers are a tasty, and hydrating, desk snack while fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple and oranges are also water packed and can be enjoyed while preparing reports or replying to emails.

For more water-rich foods click here.

4. Nibbles for nimble health

Healthy snacking mid-morning and in the middle of the afternoon can help with continued concentration, productivity and with regulating mood in between meals.

Swap potato for kale crisps.  One of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet,  kale has more vitamin A than any other leafy vegetable, more calcium than milk and more vitamin C than an orange.

Sprinkled in yogurts, salads, cereals or simply enjoyed on their own, pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan which the body converts into the mood enhancing hormone serotonin and sleep inducing melatonin decreasing anxiety and insomnia.

Almonds, often mistaken for a nut, are a seed and a handful of these make a great workplace snack to optimise physical health – including helping to lower cholesterol, enhance brain health, maintain blood sugar levels for consistent energy and also helping to reduce the risk of some cancers.

More healthy snack ideas to stop employees getting hangry can be found here.

5. A hint of herbs

The smell of peppermint is thought to boost mental clarity and even increase problem solving, judgement and attention span. Mint tea is often drunk in the Middle East to aid digestion and for its anti-inflammatory qualities.

Rich in vitamin A, having mint is good for eye health which is particularly good for workers who predominantly work in front of a screen all day. It can also help ease minor ailments soothing sore throats and acting as a decongestant to keep colds at bay.

Green tea acts as a stimulant for the brain with enough caffeine to heighten mental clarity but less than that found in coffee. Green tea served in meetings can help with brain function and reduce anxiety.

Camomile and green tea have anti-cancer benefits. Camomile is best drunk in tea mid to late afternoon to help employees start to relax from the day and have a better night’s sleep.