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Research from America’s Brigham Young University tracked data from nearly 20,000 employees and found that a poor diet can have a big impact on ‘presenteeism’ – where workers are present, but not completely productive at work – as well as absenteeism.

The employees with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to report having a loss in productivity as opposed to healthy eaters. 

The employees who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables at least four times a week were 20% more likely to be productive during their working day.

In contrast, those who rarely ate fruits, vegetables and low-fat foods at work were 93% more likely to report a loss in productivity.  

Meanwhile, absenteeism was 27% lower in staff who ate a healthy diet and also regularly exercised.

Women in a cafe

Activity 1. Eating more mindfully at work

Mindfulness is about bringing your focus to the task you're doing in the present moment and heightening your awareness of what's going on inside and around you, without distractions.

Sandwiches

In a study from Bristol University, researchers asked one group of men and women to eat lunch mindfully and another group to eat while playing the card game Solitaire on their computer. Thirty minutes later, when offered biscuits, those who had eaten their lunch without the computer game distraction ate far less.

As eating mindfully makes you feel more satisfied, it can also help some people lose weight and maintain their weight loss.  

Read the below tips and talk with your group about ways you can all eat more mindfully at work:

  • Avoid eating ‘al-desko’. Eating at your desk should be avoided whenever possible. By taking a proper break away from your work station, you not only eat more mindfully, but you return to work feeling fresher, which can often help you be more productive. Leaving the building, such as walking to the park to eat, also increases your level of physical activity throughout the work day.
  • Sit down to eat and focus completely on your food.
  • Switch off your phone and put nearby screens in sleep mode.
  • To encourage you to eat more slowly, try putting your fork or spoon down every one or two mouthfuls.
  • Take a moment to notice how you are feeling. If you feel stressed or rushed, do a few minutes of slow breathing before you start to eat.
  • Imagine you’re a food reviewer and have to write a column on this meal. It will make you focus more fully on the taste, texture, flavour and smell.
  • Chew each mouthful thoroughly. This will slow your eating and give your digestive system more time to signal to your brain that you are full, so you don’t overeat.

Mindful eating

Activity 2. Poster

This poster promotes mindful eating to help you enjoy food more and cut down on mindless snacking. Pop it on display in the staff kitchen or give copies to your colleagues to pin up at their work stations.

Activity 3. Beating the 3pm craving

When the clock strikes 3pm in a busy workplace, it’s common to hit an energy slump and start reaching for sugary treats or snack foods like chips or biscuits. Here are some handy tips for you and your workplace or group to discuss on how you can avoid eating unhealthy foods too often...

Sugar snacks

  • Eat lunch every day. Make sure that it includes some wholegrain carbohydrates (such as brown rice, quinoa, wholegrain bread, pasta or crackers) as well as protein and vegetables. You will be less likely to have an energy dip or cravings later on.
  • Choose a high-fibre snack. Foods such as hummus with carrot sticks or a grainy rye sourdough bread provide a slower release of energy and keep you feeling full for longer. They also require more chewing, which helps signal to your brain that your belly is full.
  • Stay hydrated. Your body can easily mistake thirst as a hunger signal when in fact what you really need is a drink of water. Aim to drink water every hour and drink 1.5-2 litres of fluids every day.
  • Serve all snacks on a plate. You are less likely to eat a whole packet of rice crackers if you see the food served on a plate. It acts like a visual reality check, helping to remind you when a portion size is too big. 
  • Have healthy snacks at hand. Healthy options, such as a small can of tuna or some mixed nuts, can be kept in a drawer or special food box at your work station.
  • Enjoy a cup of tea. Keep a selection of interesting teas at work, so that if you are craving an unhealthy snack, you can instead enjoy a flavoursome pick-me-up such as orange pekoe, peppermint or lemon and ginger tea.
  • Distract and delay. If a craving hits, hold off eating for 10 minutes and then another 10 minutes until hopefully, the craving lessens and subsides.

More ways to eat healthier at work

Lunches and leftovers at work

The healthiest work lunches often come from home, but chances are you or someone you work with has been affected by food poisoning; often the culprit is leftovers.

How to avoid food poisoning

The Jean Hailes Kitchen

Need some healthy lunchbox inspiration? Designed by our naturopath Sandra Villella, the recipes in the Jean Hailes Kitchen are simple, nutritious and delicious.

Recipes

Watch a video as a group

In this 15-minute video, Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella talks about her top healthy foods for women and shares tips on grocery shopping for health.

Start watching