By Kaye Jackson, Senior Business Development Manager for Let’s Get Cooking CIC
Is there always cake in the kitchen where you work? Does everyone bring in a tin of biscuits when it’s their birthday? Does someone do a chocolate run every Friday afternoon? Whether your downfall is ‘treats’ in the afternoons or what feels like a constant slew of birthdays and weddings, work can be one of the hardest places to eat well. And because we spend so much of our lives working, this can have a big impact on not just how we eat, but our general health and wellbeing too.
Pre-packed sandwiches (or, if you’re on a health kick, a salad) can feel like the only lunch options when you’re busy. But these can leave us feeling unsatisfied, short of cash and guilty that we didn’t plan ahead for lunch the night before.
We all know that eating better makes our bodies healthier, but it also makes us feel emotionally well and less tired – things we could all do with feeling at work, and things that are beneficial for our physical and mental health.
And it’s easier than you think. With a little planning, you can combine cooking healthy evening meals at home with your lunch preparation – making you feel organised, fulfilled and motivated at work the next day.
Preparation and shopping
The starting point is your shopping list. Try to write a menu for the whole week that includes cooking from scratch, feeding anyone else you live with and leftovers for work the next day. Aim to include as much fruit and veg as possible – try for a rainbow of colours in your basket or trolley. Also remember that a healthy diet is all about variety – you’re looking to build in as many different types of foods as possible rather than having the same things every day. So, if you’re normally a spuds and veg person, try throwing in some wholemeal pasta, brown rice or couscous instead.
Cooking at home and some ideas for preparing healthy lunches
Make time for cooking. Time in the kitchen – even if you only do it on the weekend – can be a great de-stresser. Here are some ideas for preparing your work lunches ahead of time:
- Make extra portions of meals at the weekend or when you have time and freeze them – then all you need to do is grab, go and defrost at work.
- Use up that cooked chicken from your Sunday roast for healthy salads, risotto or flatbreads on Mondays.
- Don’t throw out leftover vegetables; make a nourishing soup from them instead.
- Cook with friends at work if you have the facilities – the social side of cooking can give you a real sense of achievement.
- Frozen vegetables save you time and are just as good for you as fresh veg.
- Try replacing something you normally eat, such as crisps or chocolate, with a piece of fruit or a vegetable.
- Challenge your workmates to cook a healthy snack and bring it in to work – this can create a fun competition and increase workplace wellbeing and morale.
When we eat better, we feel better and often perform better. Good food gives you more energy and can improve your mood, helping you feel more on the ball during your working day.
Healthy eating at work and workplace wellbeing charters can help improve employees’ health and mean that they are less likely to be off work with illness. Let’s Get Cooking provides a range of packages to bring people together through cooking and encourage healthy eating in the workplace.
For advice on workplace wellbeing and a range of other work-related health topics, call the Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 0635 (0800 019 2211 for those in Scotland) or visit the Advice Hub.
Employees who have been off work for four weeks or more with illness can ask their GP or employer to refer them for a free Fit for Work occupational health assessment. Employers can refer eligible employees by visiting fitforwork.org/employer and clicking on ‘refer an employee’.