Diet tips for office workers

Thousands of South Africans have sedentary office jobs. This means that for eight or more hours a day they do not engage in any, or very little, physical activity.

If these office workers also spend long hours travelling from their homes to their offices they are inactive for up to 12 hours a day. It is, therefore, not surprising that office workers tend to have a variety of dietary problems, including overweight and poor eating habits.

Here are some diet tips for office workers.

1. Eat a balanced, varied diet
Monotonous diets invariably lead to imbalances and deficiencies. It is important for office workers to select foods from all the following food groups on a daily basis:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Whole, unsifted, high-fibre grains and cereals
  • Legumes (dry beans, peas and lentils)
  • Fat-free milk and dairy products
  • Lean meat, fish or eggs
  • Mono- or polyunsaturated margarine and oils

Remember that variety is the spice of life!

2. Avoid overweight
Sitting for hours on end in the office and eating fat-loaded snacks from the canteen and the tea trolley, will pile on the kilos. Before you know it, you will be battling with overweight. Do something positive and sensible about your ever-increasing girth (see points 3-6 below).

3. Eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet to lose weight
Choose a sensible, balanced diet that uses low-fat, high-fibre foods to reduce your energy intake without leading to deficiencies and endless cravings. Visit the Health24 website, click on ‘Diet’ and ‘Weight loss’ and ‘Slimming Diet’ for an example of such a diet. You should lose about 0,5 to 1 kg per week on this diet, which is ideal for sustained weight loss.

4. Avoid fad diets and slimming pills
Human beings love quick fixes and are eternally seeking a ‘magic potion’ to lose weight. Fad diets, which are either lacking in one or more macronutrients (e.g. carbohydrates) or food groups, or are so low in energy that they make you feel weak and wobbly, should be avoided. Yes, you will lose weight, but once you stop eating two lettuce leaves and 12 eggs a day, you will regain all the weight you lost, and more, in record time. Keep in mind that the purpose of weight reduction is not only to lose weight, but to keep it off.

Diet pills and potions promise you the earth, but they are expensive and most of these products can cause harmful side effects (insomnia, diarrhoea, dehydration, palpitations, anxiety, depression etc).

To lose weight successfully you actually need to change your lifestyle, not just pop pills.

5. Be active
Combine the low-fat, high-fibre slimming diet with regular exercise to achieve the best results. Research has shown that slimmers who exercise, stick to their diets more easily, and lose more weight, than those who use weight reduction diets alone.

Try a combination of exercise outside working hours. Join a gym that is open 24 hours a day; swim, cycle, skip, play an active sport, do home workouts, jog, run or walk briskly and keep as active as possible at work (use the stairs, walk to work, go for a walk at lunchtime, organise your colleagues and do an office workout as is the fashion in Japan).

6. Drink plenty of water, but not too much
Drink about four glasses of water (1 litre) during work hours in addition to all the other liquids you ingest (tea, coffee, cold drinks, fruit juice). Have another two glasses of water during the evening, so that you drink a total of 1,5 litres of water in 24 hours. Do not exceed this amount because drinking too much water can wash important minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium) from your body and even lead to ‘water intoxication’.

Ask the boss to install a water cooler on each floor of the office, so that you always have cold water available, especially in summer.

7. Healthy snacks
Take healthy food and drinks to work instead of loading up on fatty, greasy food and sweetened cold drinks from the canteen or trolley. Visit the Health24 website, click on ‘Child’ and ‘Nutrition’ and read all the tips on ‘Healthy Snacks’. Although these articles are aimed at children, the principles of healthy snacking apply to all ages and the tips will help you to ensure that you eat a balanced, varied diet at work.

Ask the boss to provide you with a fridge for each suite of offices so that you can take perishable foods such as fat-free yoghurt, cottage cheese, lean meat and fish, fruit and salads to work.

8. Never skip breakfast
Research has repeatedly shown that people who eat breakfast perform better at work, get less tired during a long working day and have more energy than those who only snatch a cup of coffee while they sprint for the bus.

It stands to reason if you have fasted since supper for a period of 12 or more hours that your blood sugar levels will be at rock bottom when you get up in the morning. You need to replenish your blood sugar levels to allow your brain to start working efficiently and to give you the energy to face the day at the office.

If you eat fresh fruit, a bowl of cereal (instant oats, hi-fibre bran cereal, or muesli) with dried fruit or honey, and fat-free milk or yoghurt, or wholewheat toast with a poached egg or fat-free cottage cheese, and have a hot drink for breakfast, you will be more clearheaded and energetic for the rest of the day.

If you struggle to eat very early in the morning, have fruit and yoghurt before you leave home, and take the rest of your breakfast along to the office to eat just after you arrive with your first cup of coffee. – (Dr I.V. van Heerden, DietDoc)

Any questions? Ask DietDoc

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