Food at work – simple strategies to ensuring a better diet in the workplace

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Filing has never been one of my strong points, and so my desktop traditionally functions as a dumping ground for an never-ending influx of paper matter. With most recent stuff going on top, finding something that dates back a few weeks or months can require a fairly extensive archaeological dig. The failings of this system were recently brought to the surface for me by an article about a condition known as ‘irritable desk syndrome’ (IDS). This modern-day malady, brought on by long hours spent in a cluttered and disorganised workspace, can apparently have quite deleterious effects on physical and mental well-being. This learning catalysed me into excavating and cataloguing the piles of paper on my desk. Clearing my workspace certainly seemed to clear my mind too, and I reckon was just what the doctor ordered for relieving my apparently terminal case of IDS.

The concept that our working environment may not work so well for our health got me thinking about other occupational hazards that come in food form. For so many of us, lunch is a relatively nutrient-depleted sandwich, perhaps supplemented throughout the day with snacks full of sugar or salt. Insult tends to be added to injury if such unwholesome fare is washed down with nutritionally suspect soft drinks and machine-dispensed coffee and tea. Such a diet is unlikely to do much to enhance health in the long term, and may even increase the risk of falling down on the job.

However, a few simple dietary ploys can be very effective in improving workaday diets, and are likely to impact positively on both general health and industrial action. Much is to be gained, for instance, by the installation of a fruit bowl on or around the desk. Snacking on fresh fruit helps keep the appetite at bay, and puts a natural brake on the consumption of less healthy food. Fruit also offers a cornucopia of nutrients that research suggests have considerable health-giving properties. One study , for instance, estimated that eating an additional 50 gram’s worth of fruit (about half an apple) each day would reduce overall risk of death by 20 per cent. It seems the fruits of our labours can pay off handsomely in the long term.

An alternative to fresh fruit are dried varieties such as figs and apricots. Although quite sugary, dried fruit is much more nutritious than conventional confectionery, and will usually be free from added sugar and artificial ingredients to boot. Dried fruit also makes the perfect accompaniment to nuts, increased intakes of which appear to protect against heart disease (but which studies show tend not to pile on the pounds). Bags of mixed dried fruit and nuts are widely available, and are a good top drawer item for when a healthy snack is required.

Another day job well worth considering is the placing of a large bottle of water on your desktop each morning. Many individuals find that downing a couple of litres or so of water throughout the day really does help keep the physical and mental energies buoyant, and also tends to dry up their consumption of less healthy fluids. Studies show that drinking more water in the long term can have considerable benefits in the form of relative protection from heart disease and several forms of cancer. For those seeking ways to eat healthily while on the job, experience shows that keeping water, fruit and nuts close to hand really does the business.

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