For many of us, a busy day doesn't always equate to a healthy one. And this mentality can quickly turn into a vicious cycle — when we need nourishment the most (i.e., when things get really crazy and hectic and our stress hormones completely deplete us of our body's essential nutrients), it's just too easy to pop into a fast-food joint, snatch the last doughnut in the kitchen, or skip eating altogether.
But just a little bit of preparation can go a long way when it comes to staying healthy and feeling good at the workplace. And whether you're spending your days sitting at a desk, standing for long periods of time, or laboriously working in the field, proper nutrition is absolutely essential: it will make for an overall productive atmosphere with employees that are less stressed and more satisfied. Here are a few tips to turn your coworkers' and your workday into one that doesn't leave you all totally drained by the end of it.
The Office Kitchen
Office work can be grueling in its own right, especially when you get caught up in a project and lose all sense of time — then you stand up and oh, hello, stiffness and hunger. Then there are those days that crawl by, when you're downright positive the clock has to be broken and you take every opportunity to roam to the kitchen and snack. Both of these situations can sap you of your energy — in the body and the brain. So at the office, we want to focus on foods that help you from feeling sluggish. And yes, you can take advantage of being in one spot all day, instead of dreading it. Here are some tips for stocking a healthy office kitchen:
Equipment to Have on Hand
Be sure to have plenty of utensils, knives, plates, bowls, cups, mugs, glass containers (to hold leftovers), and other fast-cooking essentials like a cutting board, microwave, high-powered blender, and toaster oven. Also, check and see if your building allows for a portable stove, if your office doesn't already have a built-in one.
Nonperishable Snacks and Foods
Take a survey first to see what people would like to have on hand, and try to best fulfill those desires — you may find that most people do in fact want healthy items easily accessible.
- Snack bars
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Unsweetened dried fruits
- Organic nut butters
- Oats (for oatmeal and to toss into smoothies)
- Nori sheets (great to spread with avocado and fill with veggies into a makeshift sushi roll) and seaweed snacks
- Nut-and-seed crackers
- Canned chickpeas or other beans
- Whole grains and rice (if a stove is available)
- Oils: unrefined coconut oil has myriad uses and is most stable for cooking; olive oil is great for dressings — keep both in a dark, cool, and dry corner
- Miscellaneous: sea salt, pepper, dried herbs and spices, green powders, and raw cacao powder (smoothie essentials!), cinnamon (helps control blood sugar — sprinkle it on anything and everything!)
Fresh Foods and How to Store Them
Think about joining a CSA or getting a weekly delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. Put the fresh stuff front and center on the counter and in the fridge, so it's the first thing employees see when they enter the kitchen. Here are a few common items to have on hand:
- Apples: Keep away from vegetables, and store in fridge crisper.
- Bananas: Store green bananas at room temperature. Once ripened, eat or store in the fridge.
- Cabbage: Can last up to two whole months if wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge. Great for salads and sautés.
- Veggie snacks: Carrots, celery, parsnips, and radishes hold up well and are great for dipping.
- Onions: Store in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated spot. Wrap half-used onion tightly in plastic wrap in fridge for 7 to 10 days.
- Tomatoes: Don't ever refrigerate until they have been cut or are fully ripe. Store at room temp, away from direct sunlight and other fruits.
- Citrus: Store in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated spot. Move to the fridge's crisper drawer after about one week.
- Dips and sauces: Hummus, pesto, and salsa can typically last up to a week (sometimes longer) in the fridge. Guacamole is also great, but should be eaten within a day or two.
- Proteins: Dairy (string cheese, unsweetened and plain yogurt, cottage cheese) and eggs should be kept in the fridge. Stock weekly.
- Frozen goods: Veggies, fruits, and greens hold up the longest and are great for smoothies.
Always have fresh, pure water available. Have plenty of boxes of green and herbal teas, which are cheap and easy to store. Pass on sodas and juices. If you can afford it, add some hydrating coconut water or refreshing sparkling water to your stash.
Making the Kitchen a Happy Place
Be sure to provide space for employees to break free from their desks and enjoy their food in a tranquil spot, where they can eat mindfully and converse with coworkers in a much more relaxed setting.
Another way to get everyone involved in the state of office food (because everyone loves food, right?) is to suggest monthly healthy bake-offs or potlucks. Or get in touch with local restaurants or cafés to do special orders or tastings. Food — especially when it’s free — is such a great way of bringing people together.
At the Factory or in the Field
This goes for all you hard workers who spend most of the day on your feet, whether you're on the production line, in the kitchen, teaching a class, tending to crops, or on a construction site. You're automatically burning more calories simply by standing, and if you're doing any sort of manual labor, you'll need even more fuel to get you through the hours. The foods mentioned above will serve you just as well, but you may need to consume more and at more regular intervals. A few tips:
How to Sustain Energy Through Food
A balance of carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), healthy fats (coconut and olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds), and proteins (eggs, beans, meats, and cheeses) will keep your body satiated and going at optimal function. Some people find eating smaller meals at greater frequency is best, but remember that every body is different.
No Kitchen Access? No Problem
If you're out on the field, you'll need easily transportable food. Invest in high-quality, stainless steel thermoses for your employees (heck, even put your company's logo on it!) to store preprepared hot meals (oatmeal, stir-frys, sautés, leftovers, etc.) or cold smoothies (tip: blend in frozen greens for a big dose of vitamins, minerals, and even some protein). Wraps are also modern wonders: try this avocado and hummus wrap.
Another great thing to provide to all employees is a large (nonplastic) water bottle, especially if working outside in the sun. Water should always be available — dehydration will deplete you of energy much quicker than hunger. But don't forget the electrolytes too. Skip the Gatorade and mix up your own natural electrolyte drink in advance. These are all ingredients you can easily have on hand:
- 2 cups water
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Juice from ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
If you're taking care of yourself all day at work, you'll definitely want to extend those habits into your life at home as well. And whether you're sitting for multiple hours a day or doing manual labor that requires repetitive motions, you may have some stiffness and achiness to contend with. Taking an Epsom salt bath is a wonderful way to relieve stress and muscle pain and reduce inflammation. A soothing evening tea can do wonders as well: try chamomile for relaxation, dandelion root for liver support, and ginger for digestion.
This sort of self-care (and knowing that your office is fully stocked for optimal healthiness) will prepare you for a great day ahead so you can turn that vicious cycle of exhaustion into a productive one of health and vigor.