Plenty of us have had days we’d rather forget. Perhaps you arrive late to work, then a meeting you attend ends with some choice words being made in your direction. Not only that, but a tight deadline meant you skipped lunch and before you know it, it’s mid-afternoon and you’re frazzled and hungry – very hungry.
By this time, the chances are that healthy salad you’d been planning to eat is looking nowhere near as appealing. So, what do you do? You head straight for the comfort food option instead, and before you know it, you’re filling up on high-calorie snacks like potato chips, chocolate and cookies.
It’s a well-known fact that our food choices go hand in hand with how we’re feeling. There are countless movies that feature someone newly heartbroken, gorging themselves on a tub of ice cream, for example, and it’s true that when we’re unhappy we tend to eat foods high in things like calories, salt, fat and sugar. However, it’s actually more complex than that.
Research, carried out recently, has shown that our working environment has much to do with our eating habits, and not only for the worse. There is a science behind the correlation behind our emotional wellbeing and the foods we eat… and the effect those foods have on our work performance. Given that, it would be a good idea for your employer to take this on board when arranging the catering they offer.
Take a recent study undertaken by the University of Delaware in the USA. It looked into the correlation between our moods and the food choices we make, in particular, our thoughts and emotions in opting for healthy meals. Research previous has revealed that we often still choose unhealthy foods when we’re feeling good (for example, choosing from the sweet trolley during a celebratory meal). Other research, however, has revealed that when we’re in a good place emotionally for longer spells, we tend to opt for healthier food. Temporary good moods, on the other hand, leave us more likely to comfort eat in order to prolong the feeling.
The University of Delaware study goes into detail about the foods we eat and times to come. As part of the study, those taking part were separated into groups. One would be asked to think about the here and now, the other about the future. Regardless of the moods of the participants, those who were asked to think about the future were more likely to make better food choices. In other words, when you concentrate on the present time, you’re more likely to reach for a quick fix, food-wise, and that’s often caused by poor moods.
So, what can we do about it? One trick is to think about the future next time you’re feeling under strain, in a bad place emotionally, or have too much on your plate generally. Think about what motivates you – can you imagine rising to your manager’s position a few years from now, or bringing some long-awaited plan of yours to fruition? According to the study, if you can adopt this longer-term thinking, it might make you less susceptible to heading for the short-term temptations beckoning you from the office vending machine, and more likely to opt for healthier food options instead.
Another way you can help suppress your urge to indulge in comfort foods is to try and persuade your company bosses to provide healthier options in the recreation room – so, think nuts and fresh fruit rather than potato chips and candy bars, Nuts in particular are a great option as they can get you your salt fix and are also an excellent source of protein (which will help keep you feeling full for longer) and monounsaturated fats, which are great for the heart. Fruit, on the other hand, is full of fibre, which will also help fill you up, while also offering something for those with a sweet tooth,
Two other studies conducted over recent years – from Penn State in the USA and the University of Otago in New Zealand – have revealed another interesting finding too. Each study looked into the positive effects of healthy eating on our moods. They concluded that rather than happier people tending to eat healthily, it is, in fact, the other way round – namely, that choosing healthy foods causes us to be happier.
The studies drew data from hundreds of participants, looking at the foods they ate combined with their changes in moods. Both studies came to the conclusion that eating healthy foods – in particular fruits and vegetables – contributed to them feeling happier. According to those studies, those participants who ate foods such as fruit and vegetables were happier on the days they did so. Not only that, but they were happier in the days that followed too.
Evidence such as this suggests companies should be acting on it. After all, we know that the happier a person is, the more likely they are to make for a productive employee. And this evidence is stacking up: from cutting down on the chances of developing a disease (and with that the cost of health care) to boosting productivity, to our emotional wellbeing, the foods we choose to consume has a big impact in the workplace.
So, in what ways does your employer’s catering options assist – or make worse – its worker’s moods? Well, we asked a catering superstar – Emmanuel Diacos from a Brisbane based Catering company
If you’re an employer and tell-tale signs like pizza boxes tend to be a fixture of the lunch table in the office, try to opt for more vegetable-oriented foods such as sushi or sandwiches made from wholemeal bread and containing healthy fillings. Also, if hosting office breakfast meetings is a regular occurrence for you, consider options such as omelette bars, or continental-style choices such as yogurts, fresh fruit and hard-boiled eggs brought from a local deli, rather than doughnuts and bagels.Emmanuel Diacos, My Alter Ego Catering Brisbane
Take the measures necessary to make your office a healthier place with the food it offers and you’ll reap the rewards with happier and more productive employees. That way, everyone’s a winner!