From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

October is a good time to renew all healthy habits in your work routine. According to Canadian Health Network's 2002 Guide to Nutrition in the Workplace, adults spend an average of 60% of their waking hours at work. That means you'll likely need at least one meal and a snack near your workplace. The Heart and Stroke Foundation's nutrition columnist, Alyssa Rolnick, R.D., says it's easier to make healthier food choices when you bring lunch from home than when you eat at cafeterias or fast food places where there's often a lack of vegetables, fruit and milk. Bringing a bagged lunch will also give you extra time to get physical activity at your job. This can be a real time-saver on days when you simply don't have a chance to be active before or after work.

Take your lunch

Take your lunch, take the stairsA satisfying lunch can give you the energy that you need to keep going all afternoon. Rolnick says it's easy to brown-bag a healthy lunch in a snap. Here are some tips for a quick and satisfying lunch.

  1. Make a crunchy sandwich: Want a crisp, veggie-packed sandwich? Try using sweet red and green peppers, shredded carrots, and any kind of lettuce and fresh herbs.
  2. Dress up your wrap: Love the taste of tomatoes or other watery veggies in your wrap but don't want to end up with a mushy one? Place sliced tomatoes, cucumbers or roasted red peppers in a container separate from your sandwich. Put them in your wrap right before you eat it for a great, fresh-tasting lunch.
  3. Pack a quick lunch: Make extra meatloaf or roast chicken for dinner and put it in a microwaveable container for a ready-to–go lunch in the morning.
  4. Try a leftover makeover: Take last night's meal such as a chicken stir-fry or grilled salmon, stuff it in a pita and add cut-up veggies on the side.
  5. Take a freezer meal: Look for low-fat, lower-sodium frozen meals in your grocery store with a Health Check™ logo and pair it with some fruit and milk. Zap it in the microwave at work, and bingo! You've got a healthy meal.

    Health Check

Take the stairs (or go for a walk)
Instead of running around looking for a meal at a food court or standing in line at the cafeteria, bringing a bagged lunch gives you more time for physical activity, Rolnick says. Set aside 30 minutes to eat your lunch and then 30 minutes for taking the stairs back up to your work station or going for a walk. Dr. Robert Reid, a health behaviour change expert who has been funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, says that not only is it good for your heart, but it can also clear your mind and reduce stress during the work day. “Just 10 minutes of physical activity at a time can rejuvenate people who've been sitting all day and those few minutes can add up to the required 30 to 60 minutes of activity over the course of the day,” he says. “As well, employees are more satisfied with the work environment if they have a chance to get a bit of physical activity in during their day.”

Encourage co-workers to be active with you
Get to know your work colleagues better by organizing lunch-time walks or climbs in your building's stairwell. You can also ask your employer for permission to post signs encouraging stair walking. Prompting co-workers to make a healthy choice at the right time may increase everyone's amount of physical activity. An article in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed that when signs promoting the health benefits of stair climbing were placed at the entrance to stairwells, stair climbing increased in those stairwells by 190% and in other nearby stairwells by 52%.

Try posting signs encouraging stair use by the elevators and stairways. Public Health Agency of Canada's Stairway to Health challenge has free, downloadable posters with messages such as these:

  • Walking up stairs burns almost 5 times more calories than riding an elevator.
  • In one minute, a 150-pound person burns 10 calories walking up the stairs and only 1.5 calories riding an elevator.
  • When you go up, your blood pressure goes down.

Remember: a healthy lunch and a bit of extra activity (getting off the bus a stop early, taking the stairs, organizing a group walk at lunch) can boost any work day.

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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