Did you know that March is Nutrition Month? Yes, every year Registered Dietitians from across the country take this opportunity to promote healthy eating to Canadians. And every year Dietitians of Canada decides upon a theme for the month, to coordinate our messages and to focus on a particular topic or population. This year the theme is Eating 9 to 5 – looking at making healthy eating choices during our workday. Why focus on the workday? Well…
- Most of us spend at least 1/3 of our day at work, not including commute time
- 45% of Canadians say that eating healthy meals and snacks while at work is challenging
- 40% of Canadian skip breakfast
- 1 in 4 Canadian workers are highly stressed on most days – which can lead to increased desire to eat, especially high-fat, high-sugar comfort foods
- The average Canadian consumer eats lunch at a restaurant 39 times per year; 58% of those meals are at quick service (aka fast food) restaurants
When you also consider that over 60% of the Canadian population over age 15 are employees, this is a pretty big audience making food choices while at work. Many factors impact our ability to eat healthy while at work – lack of time, shift work, eating on the road, food availability, stress – the list goes on. Making healthy choices during our work day not only makes us more alert, productive, and happy, it also improves our overall health and decreases the number of sick days taken – a win win for both employees and employers!
So in support of Nutrition Month, I thought I would share my top 5 tips for making healthy eating the easy choice from 9-5 (or whatever shift you may work)!
1. Plan ahead and then plan some more!
The old adage goes “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, and when it comes to making healthy choices in your hectic workday, it is definitely true! Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack items so you’ll always be able to throw together healthy meals and snacks for your work day. Make sure you have a variety of containers so you can accommodate your eats for the day. And if you can, stash some healthy non-perishable snacks in your desk, purse, or glove compartment.
Different sized containers make packing lunch a breeze!
2. Get acquainted with grab and go breakfasts!
Let’s face it, mornings can be a rush, regardless of how well you plan. And if you are anything like me, you value every last minute of sleep you can possibly get before jumping out of bed and rushing out the door. But instead of cruising through the drive-thru on your way to work, why not try out some quick grab & go breakfasts you can throw together in 5 minutes or less? Some great ideas include:
- a smoothie made with frozen fruit, yogurt, and milk – my favourite combination is frozen cherries, vanilla yogurt, almond milk, and cocoa powder!
- a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread
- a whole grain pita stuffed with sliced hard boiled egg, tomato, lettuce, and cheese
- overnight oats – try my Apple Pie Overnight Oats – if you mix them together before you leave, they’ll be ready to eat once you reach your desk
- a whole grain muffin, an apple or orange, and your favourite latte
Smoothies are my go-to grab and go breakfast on busy mornings!
3. Lunch on Leftovers!
Cook once and eat twice, or maybe even three times! When you plan your nightly dinners, why not look to those leftovers for your lunch? If you aren’t into eating the same thing the next day, mix up those leftovers into something different – for example, leftover roasted chicken can be added to salad greens or throw into a whole wheat tortilla with some salsa and cheese. Whenever I make soup, I freeze the leftovers in individual portions in ziploc bags – they freeze flat, are easy to grab, and have thawed just in time for lunch. Some of my favourite recipes that make great leftovers include:
- Falafelly Good Chickpea Burgers (great on top of a salad)
- Buffalo Turkey Quinoa Bowls
- Tuscan Lentil Barley Soup
- Grandpa’s Doukhobor Borscht
- Tropical Peanutty Pork Pizza
This buffalo turkey quinoa bowl tastes even better the next day!
4. Carry a reusable water bottle!
Looking to make healthier drink choices? Then carry a water bottle. Not only is water the best way to hydrate, it’s also the cheapest, and doesn’t contain extra sugar, fat, acids, or chemicals. Keep it with you throughout the day, so you always have something to sip on. If plain water isn’t your thing, add lemon, lime, mint, or berries to flavour your water. Splurge on a fancy one with all the money you’ll save on those sugary beverages!
My stainless steel water bottle is never far away, keeping me hydrated all day!
5. Be an informed diner!
Sometimes it’s not always possible to brown bag your lunch (or breakfast), whether you are on the road for work or invited to a lunch time meeting. Being informed about what choices are available can help you make the best choice for yourself. Have you every checked out BC’s Informed Dining Program? You can get nutritional information from many restaurants, so that you can make informed choices. If nutritional info isn’t available where you are eating, look for dishes with lots of vegetable or fruit, whole grains, and lean proteins. Skip dishes that are fried, breaded, or drowning in creamy sauces, and instead choose baked, grilled, or poached options. Don’t be afraid to ask for things like extra vegetables, dressing on the side, or a to-go container so you can take leftovers from extra large portions home. If you find yourself at restaurants without any healthy options, don’t sweat it – but see if you can suggest a healthier option for the next lunch out!
Salmon is a great protein choice when dining out!
Hopefully these 5 tips can get your started to making healthy choices to fuel your workday. Might I suggest you also follow the Northern Health Matters Blog, where myself and other Registered Dietitians from across Northern BC will be sharing more great tips and ideas to keep you motivated and eating well throughout the month. And be sure to check out Dietitians of Canada for more great tips all March long!
Some information adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at www.nutritionmonth2015.ca.