Digesting Nutrition at Work

25th April 2019

Take some time to digest what nutritionist Tricia Pearson has to say about nutrition and work, and how we can improve our wellness at work and at home.  What we eat, affects how we feel, and how our body works.  How good is a fruit shake with nothing added but fruit and ice?  Ever have a really good salad and just feel healthy?  What does a day or two without coffee feel like? What about after a burger, fries, and soft drink?  Being aware of what goes into our bodies, can influence how we think, feel, and function, at work, and at home.

Our nutritional and dietary choices can create good positive energy, or leave us feeling run down, and flat.  Keep us healthy, or increase risk of disease and illness.  What we eat matters, but we don’t always have the time or knowledge to make good choices.

I spent some time speaking with Tricia Pearson a Certified Nutritionist from Step Up to The Plate Nutrition in Nanaimo.  Tricia will be speaking at our Wellness in the Workplace event on May 30th.  Tricia and I discussed what we can do better to manage our nutrition in a world of work that involves a lot more than going into work 9-5, and how to better manage some of our nutritional needs.

Photo by Trang Doan from Pexels

Take a Break

One thing that Tricia felt we don’t do as well these days is eat meals together. It’s not uncommon for some of us to skip lunch all together, eat at our desks, or sit in the lunchroom and eat quickly while on our phones, then rush back to work.

Eating in the lunch room then sitting and talking with colleagues, or going for a walk and talk allows us time to briefly disengage from work, destress a little, eat slower, and digest our food better.

Harvard Health published an article noting that when a person becomes stressed enough to trigger the fight-or-flight response, for example, digestion slows or even stops so that the body can divert all its internal energy to facing a perceived threat.   Even a little stress can influence how we digest our food.  Taking a real lunch can have a real impact on our digestion and help us process our food better.

Tricia also noted that increased stress levels can also increase cravings for carbohydrates, so taking a lunch break that is conducive to good digestion can also curb the craving for that sneaky mid-afternoon doughnut.

Balancing our Balancing

While we all have to balance our work, family, and personal lives, we also need to balance our nutritional habits, practices, and needs.  Considering we spend more of our waking time at work than home, how can we find a balance between not having enough time to make healthy meals, versus the need for nutritional foods whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner?  Tricia suggested a few good practices to consider are:

  1. As tough as it is to disconnect from staring at your phone, tablet, Netflix, or the game, take 30 minutes, put some music or a podcast on instead, and reconnect with food you like, explore your food options and get hands on with your food, make something quick, and healthy for dinner, or lunch the next day rather than rely on a preservative filled ready meal.
  2. Don’t go it alone. Educate yourself, not just with internet suggestions and recommendations, but consult with an expert that can provide advice based on your lifestyle, preferences, and health objectives to help you make improvements to your food choices and your health.
  3. Label libel. Beware of the labeling, just because a label implies it’s healthy (sugar free), doesn’t mean it is, and just because you think it’s unhealthy, doesn’t mean it is either (some fats are good for you!). Labels aren’t always telling the exact truth.
  4. Explore the foods you like, or would like to try, and learn to fall in love with food (possibly again!). There are lots of healthy choices that are quick, easy, healthy, and tasty. If there are healthy foods you’ve tried, but haven’t liked, try them again by preparing them in different ways, you may be surprised by how preparation can change the taste or texture of a food.  Check out Jamie Oliver’s page here

Lunch Hacks

Work and lunch can be challenging.  So I asked Tricia if she had any suggestions for improving the nutritional value of my lunch.  Here’s what she said:

As a nutritionist, I tend to work with individuals based on their lifestyles, and individual needs.  However here are a few things that can make a difference generally:

Less Can Be More

Less at dinner with more nutritionally balanced breakfasts and lunches can have benefits and is reminiscent of diets in Mediterranean cultures. Often, a traditional day in many Canadian households is the opposite with a light breakfast, and lunch, and a large, heavy dinner.    More nutritionally balanced breakfasts and lunches, can help fuel you better throughout your day, meaning you can have less for dinner without feeling hungry or going to bed with a heavy stomach which can be tough on digestion and sleep.

A lighter, well balanced dinner before bed, or watching TV can also help your body avoid going into storage mode, where it has all this extra fuel (often in the form of carbohydrates), and a state of inactivity.  That combination can result in the tendency for the body to store that fuel for later, often in the form of fat.

Picking Portions

What we eat is one thing, but how much we eat is important too.  Balance your portions.  Tricia suggested:

  • Trying to use an open hand to measure portions for fruit and vegetables.
  • Close your fist to measure carbohydrates such as pasta (we often tend to go overboard with pasta), rice, and grains.
  • Use the palm of your hand for protein such as egg, chicken, fish (can go bigger with fish!) or other meat.
  • If you want cheese or salad dressings, for these types of oils go thumb size.

Colour In

A very simple approach to balancing your diet is to avoid white and brown lunches, and get 4 or 5 colours into your lunch (or more, shoot for the rainbow!), That means healthy whole foods, and avoiding sugary artificially coloured foods.  Skittles are not the rainbow you’re after.

Not Peas in a Pod

Something that Tricia made very clear is that we’re not all peas in a pod.  Our diet and nutritional needs are as unique and varied as our personalities.  What works for one person, may not work for another.

There are challenges, choices, and solutions around how we choose to fuel our bodies and minds and there are a number of benefits worth considering and exploring which haven’t been discussed in this blogpost, such as energy levels, sleep, obesity, muscle growth and repair, nutrition is a complex topic, much like wellness, and educating yourself can be a fascinating rabbit hole of information, take the time to digest it fully!

Disclaimer!!

Tricia’s comments reiterate that we’re not peas in a pod, and her suggestions are very general, and guidelines only.  Medical conditions, how active you are, dietary choices (i.e. vegan),  and needs (i.e. diabetic), and a host of other factors must be considered before making any sweeping decisions, or drastic changes to your diet.  Always consult your physician, a nutritionist, or other appropriate health professional if you’re considering significant changes to your diet.

For more information on Step Up to The Plate Nutrition visit http://stepuptotheplatenutrition.com or call Tricia on 250 802 FOOD (3663)


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