Healthy diet for office workers

Office workers tend to have a variety of dietary problems, including overweight and poor eating habits. Here are more diet tips for office workers (also read "Diet tips for office workers") to inspire you to do something about your diet and health.

1. “Five a day”
Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to prevent a variety of degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, different types of cancers, and obesity. Fruit and vegetables are rich in protective nutrients like vitamins, trace elements, bioflavonoids, and dietary fibre.

Select one dark green or dark yellow fruit or vegetable every day (yellow peaches, apricots, paw paw, sweet melon, mangoes, carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, spinach, or sweet potatoes) to supply you with beta-carotene.

Have one fruit, fruit juice, or vegetable every day that is rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, grapefruit, naartjies, guava, strawberries and other berry fruits, pawpaw, cabbage, broccoli, or green peppers.

2. Eat fish three or more times a week
Research studies have found that people who eat fish three or more times a week have a much lower incidence of heart disease and other degenerative diseases. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which protect us against a variety of diseases and ensure a healthy brain and nervous system.

Make wholewheat sandwiches or salads with tuna, mackerel, or salmon and take to work for a healthy lunch. Brush your teeth after the meal if you are scared your fishy breath will be a put-off to colleagues and clients.

3. Vitamin and mineral supplements
If you are eating a balanced diet, you probably don’t need supplements. But if you suffer from tiredness, depression or irritability, if you are recovering from an illness and have returned to work too soon, or burn the candle at both ends, then it may be a good idea to take a vitamin and mineral supplement.

Use complete supplements that contain all the known vitamins and minerals, because many nutrients work better when taken in combination (e.g. B-vitamins are more effective when you have an adequate supply of all the vitamins in the B-complex).

But don’t overdose on supplements. Just because one tablet is good for you, does not mean that you should be taking two or three a day. Excessive intakes of vitamins and minerals can also be harmful, so stick to the instructions on the bottle.

4. Be proactive about office food
If your canteen and those dreaded trolleys only supply fatty, rich, overcooked food and fat-laden, sugared snacks, be proactive and organise a ‘Diet Committee’ to tackle the management about healthier menus and snacks. There is no reason why the canteen can’t serve healthy, low-fat food and why the trolleys can’t provide wholewheat sandwiches, salads, fruit, and low-energy drinks.

5. Go easy on what you eat and drink at staff parties
Staff parties, loaded with energy-rich dishes and vast volumes of alcohol, are usually fatal for anyone who is trying to diet. Be strong and stick to smaller portions and limit your drinking. You will not only feel much better the day after, but you won’t have gained weight and suffer from a hangover.

Dilute your drinks with soda water or sugar-free cold drinks and have two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink you sip at the party.

Be proactive, draw up an office petition to make sure that the food at staff parties aren't all fattening - ask for crudites with a fat-free cottage cheese dip, fruit and low-fat cheeses, and grilled lean meat and omega-3-rich fish.

6. Counteract constipation
Individuals who sit in front of a PC all day and eat low-fibre foods can easily develop chronic constipation. Don’t resort to harsh laxatives (including herbal products), as they will destroy your natural bowel movements and lead to laxative dependence.

Eat plenty of high-fibre foods (wholewheat bread, and crackers, high-fibre cereals, fruit, vegetables, and legumes), drink four glasses of water and get active to stimulate peristalsis.

7. Get expert help for diet-related problems
If you develop a diet-related problem such as obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, certain cancers, arthritis, gout, food allergies, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia), or anaemia, get expert help. Don’t listen to the office grapevine, old wive’s tales, or Internet urban legends, consult your medical doctor and a clinical dietician. Diet modifications are often highly successful in treating these diseases and the dietician will assist you in working out a diet that provides you with the nutrients you require to stay healthy, while avoiding those foods which can cause problems.

Office workers the world over are particularly vulnerable to poor eating habits and prone to many diseases of lifestyle, so get proactive and active and do something about your situation. – (Dr I.V. van Heerden, DietDoc)

Any questions? Ask DietDoc

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