Healthy Eating at the Office
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The pace of life nowadays means that many people have to eat at their workplace, or near to it. There are days when it's impossible to go home for lunch. Eating in nearby pubs, cafes and restaurants is always an option, but, do we really need to spend money on something that we can resolve ourselves? Besides this, our food choices might not be altogether healthy, due to fast food menus and other such products. Another issue that I will address here is the matter of snacks, which can be a healthy break or can become harmful to our health.
Beverages: a healthy break or a bad friend?
Many articles on this subject debate about how much coffee we should drink, or defend the advantages of tea compared to caffeine. Is theine less harmful than caffeine? Absolutely not, in fact, it's the same thing. Abusing one or the other is harmful, as are energy drinks. It is recommended to drink one or two cups of tea or coffee over the course of the morning. In the following article in The Guardian, "Caffeine compared: from coke and coffee to aspirin and chocolate the subject is discussed in more detail.
In addition to beverages, we usually have a wide range of products at our disposal, such as toast, industrial pastries or taking our own food. In my opinion, toast is a good way to start the day, as industrial pastries rapidly increase energy levels, but have saturated fats and excessive sugar which are counter-productive. That doesn't mean that we should stop eating these products, but we should do so only occasionally. These sweet appetisers cannot compete nutritionally with porridge, for example. If we bring our own appetiser from home, then we will have a lot of possibilities: a sandwich, yoghurt with cereals, fruit, etc. For more information about healthy breakfast choices I recommend this article by NHS Choices: “Healthy breakfasts (for people who hate breakfast)”.
It is one thing having a small appetiser and quite another to snack all day long. Besides distracting us from our work, it does not help our health or our figure. Non-stop trips to the vending machine, packets of crisps in the drawer, chocolate in our bag or briefcase... If we have these types of interruptions all day then our performance will decrease, and nobody will do our work for us, so we may even have to stay late at the office to get things finished.
And what about lunch? What should we do?
Here's the real question, what about lunchtime? Eat out or bring food?
If we eat at work only occasionally then the easy solution is to eat in a pub, cafe or restaurant. However, if we eat at work everyday, then it would become a significant part of our salary. Besides which, we might be tempted to choose high-fat options, such as hamburgers, fried food, meal deals... which would mean extra calories everyday that we don't need. I recommend the book by Doctor Howard Shapiro "Picture Perfect Weight Loss", where there are a great number of examples, with the aid of photographs, showing the difference between choosing one food or another. He also shows us that the "light" option is not always ideal compared to other less processed and natural options. Back to the subject of money, a set menu of £9.95 would mean a cost of around £199 at the end of the month, without counting the cost of breakfast. At the end of the year we would have spent approximately £2388. Instead of having lunch out everyday, we could prepare food at home and take it to work.
It's a question of organisation
The best thing to do is to sit down and think about what we want to eat during the week. That will save us time as we will know what we have to buy in advance. My personal recommendation is not to make life difficult with impossible ingredients. The best thing is to keep meals simple and choose everyday foods that we can easily find in the supermarket. This is quite a declaration of intent: the aim of this post is not to convert its readers into healthy eating gurus, but to give some advice that will be practical for day to day life.
Cook everything at once?
There are people that are very handy in the kitchen and prepare their weekly meals during the weekend. They cook several meals and freeze them down in individual Tupperware containers. But not everybody has the time or desire to spend a few hours doing this. A solution would be to prepare food the night before. For people who are not very experienced in the kitchen it could seem like mission impossible to make anything but a sandwich, but I have just two words for them: "flavour base". A flavour base can be made by frying off the aromatic ingredients as the base of a meal and includes chopped garlic, onion, pepper and some grated tomato and olive oil. This base can be used to prepare any kind of stew, for example, with lentils. We prepare the flavour base in a large pan with some Spanish chorizo and add water. Then, we add a jar of pre-cooked lentils, some fresh spinach leaves and salt to taste and cook until it is to our liking. If we add the same flavour base to pasta, with some bacon, tuna or whatever takes our fancy, then we have another dish. Another example: we prepare the flavour base in a large saucepan, add some clams and prawns (they can be frozen), and when the clams open we add some white wine and salt. We add water and some thick noddles and we have a quick seafood soup. Another option is to use the flavour base to make chicken. We cook the chicken pieces with the flavour base and add salt to taste. Semolina or couscous also provide another option with endless possibilities, both hot and cold. And, of course, salads also offer us lots of different possibilities.
Fresh vs. frozen
Obviously, fresh food is always better, but if we don't have much time I recommend Healthy Food, Fast by the Food Network which has numerous recipes for healthy and quick meals with recipes between 5 and 35 minutes.
So, what about tomorrow?
It's easier than we think. It's not necessary to eat in a pub or cafe everyday, with a bit of time we can have a healthy and balanced diet. Bon appetit!