Picking the right foods can help get you through the day in work

YOU know the ritual. It’s nearing slump o’clock on a workday afternoon and you find yourself rooting around in your pocket for change for the vending machine.

If you have the right coins, it means the calories in the chocolate bar that comes clunking through the mechanism’s innards won’t have any adverse health effect — that’s a little mind game you play with yourself. 

The only problem is that it doesn’t have a positive health effect either — it leads to a sharp sugar rush and then an even deeper slump.

Roll back the clock a few hours, however, and imagine that you enjoyed a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal in the office canteen, rather than a rushed sandwich at your desk.

If that had been the case, the mid-afternoon dip mightn’t have hit so hard and, strangely enough, you might even find that you are more on top of your inbox than expected.

What you eat affects your work performance. However, it has also been shown that offering better nutritional options at work can help employees to cut down on sugar, fat and salt.

Combining nutrition education and healthier menus at the work canteen has been shown to promote health, according to a UCC study, Food Choice at Work, conducted by Prof Ivan Perry and Dr Fiona Geaney.

To see how that works in practice, all you have to do is look at the Irish Heart Healthy Eating Awards programme, which has been certifying work canteens that offer healthy options to staff for the last 20 years.

“Given that we spend a fair bit of time in work, it’s important to have a healthy environment,” Janis Morrissey, health promotion manager and dietitian at Irish Heart, tells Feelgood.

One of the aims of the Healthy Eating Awards is to encourage work canteens across Ireland to ensure that the healthy choice is also the easy choice.

Janis Morrissey explains: “It’s not enough to know what is healthy, it should also be easily available. The world we live and work in should support you in making a healthy choice. Lifestyles are busier so convenience is very important.”

Last year, more than 60 workplace canteens in a range of companies, from manufacturers to hospital canteens, took part in the awards scheme.

A collaborative approach is key to success, Irish Heart believes. Dieticians go to the companies on behalf of Irish Heart where they work with employees, employers and catering staff to come up with a plan specially tailored to each workplace.

Last year, Irish Heart added bronze, silver and gold categories to the national awards programme to encourage staff restaurants to go further with healthy catering and menus. The restaurant at Mayo University Hospital had already been certified by Irish Heart but it scooped a gold award after a re-certification audit in May. Certs are valid for two years.

To go for gold, work canteens must meet a number of criteria. Calories must be displayed on all menus, which should include low-fat options, high-fibre choices and dishes that include beans, peas or lentils.

Healthy food, such as fruit and vegetables, should be prominently displayed, while hot or cold pastries should be off the menu at least two days a week.

There must be at least three chip-free days a week and more than 50% of available drinks should be healthier choices, such as water, unsweetened fruit juice and diet drinks.

Elbha Purcell, dietician at Aramark Food Services which runs the Mayo University Hospital restaurant, said: “The role of food in everyday life is so important and has a big impact on overall health.

 The Irish Heart award works very much in conjunction with our health and wellness programme, Healthy For Life. Having both on site is a fantastic way to incentivise both our customers and staff to follow a healthier eating programme. 

Achieving the gold award is a fantastic accomplishment by our team in Mayo university hospital.”

Sarah O’Brien, HSE National Lead Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme, said helping staff to improve their health was key to achieving a healthy Ireland.

“Catering departments have an important role to play by providing high-quality food and healthy menu options in the workplace,” she said.

* To apply for an Irish Heart Healthy Eating Award, click here.

Muesli check

ANY image of a so-called healthy breakfast is likely to include a bowl of muesli. But, be warned, not all mueslis are created equal.

Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar warns: “As with anything you buy, you need to read the label and not just go by the hype on the front of the packet. Many can be laden with high amounts of added sugar and salt and this can turn a healthy breakfast into an unhealthy one.”

Meanwhile, Glenville Nutrition’s 12-week ‘Lose Fat Around The Middle’ course starts again in September in Dublin and Galway and, for the first time this year, in Kilkenny and Cork.

Weekly sessions will include a talk and time with a nutritionist. Participants will also get weekly menu plans and recipes. For details, email info@glenvillenutrition.ie

Coffee power

You might find yourself full of beans after a good cup of coffee but now waste coffee grounds are being used as an alternative energy source.

Bio-bean, a British company founded in 2013, has found a way of recycling coffee waste to make briquettes and coffee logs that burn hotter, longer and cleaner than wood.

A bag of 16 eco-briquettes costs €9.50 at Avoca. For other stockists click here.

Burger fever

IF you’re getting the barbeque out, make sure to cook your burgers well.

Safefood issued the warning after a survey found that more than half of Irish adults (51%) said they had a preference for undercooked burgers, which can be dangerous.

Dr Gary Kearney, Director of Food Science at safefood, said: “Mince used in hamburgers is a higher risk as the food-poisoning bacteria that live on the surface of the beef (steak) is mixed through the burger when the beef is minced.

“The only way to ensure that any bacteria is killed off is to ensure that the burger is well done.”

Meals in minutes

Gino D’Acampo didn’t call his book Pronto! for nothing.

The Italian TV chef says you can cook a delicious Italian meal in just 20 minutes, and in the paperback edition of his new book, out next month, he shows you just how to do that. He says he learned the secret to quick, delicious dishes from his grandfather: great chefs spend time finding the right ingredients; they don’t waste time in the kitchen preparing them.

Pronto!, published by Kyle Books, contains 130 of the chef’s quickest and most affordable Italian recipes.



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