Eat well at work


Typical: Alarm goes off late, up and out with a cup of coffee to catch a crowded train to work.

Ideal: Set clock 10 minutes ahead, then get up at usual alarm time. Now you have time for breakfast: wholegrain cereal (Branflakes/ Fruit and Fibre/Weetabix) and semi-skimmed milk or microwave porridge. Wholegrain/wholemeal toast with olive oil spread.

Benefits: Slow carbohydrate and added B group vitamins for sustained energy and mid-morning appetite control; fortified with iron to prevent anaemia and chronic tiredness; protein for healthy organs, tissues and immune function; calcium-rich milk for dense, strong bones and blood pressure maintenance.

OK: Breakfast in less than two minutes: wholegrain crunchy bar or breakfast cereal bar for fortified cereal and calcium from the dried skimmed milk added for sweetness. Two more minutes to spare? Add a low-fat bio yoghurt or yoghurt-based smoothie for protein and calcium without an artery-clogging saturated fat load.

Now and again: Croissants, muffins, Danish pastries, cooked breakfast. A calorie load to last you through to 5pm, and a high quantity of saturated fat but without the vitamin load to help offset any damage.


Typical: Absolutely famished – so off to the canteen for the pick-me-up coffee and a bar of chocolate from the vending machine or sticky bun from the tea lady.

Ideal: If you had breakfast, you’re not really hungry. Have a fruit – that’s one of your five a day.

OK: If you’ve skipped breakfast, have a cereal bar with a drink. Oaty ones are best. You can buy a six-pack on your weekly shop and keep them in a desk drawer. A substantial chew but far fewer calories than a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate. If eating is just a way of socialising, share a wafer bar (KitKat or half a Twix) – a low calorie break without social isolation.

Drink to rehydrate. You can lose a pint or more of fluid (500-600ml) a day if you work in a warm office. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty as that means you are already dry. Supersize your drink for maximum benefit – a mug for a cup, a 750ml water bottle for a 500ml one, or a large dispensed cup for a smaller one. Hydration helps maintain brain-power and concentration. If you wee less than four times a day or pass small volumes of dark-coloured urine, you are dehydrated. Large volumes of pale urine
are the goal.


Typical: Off to the local deli for a speciality sandwich. Choosing ciabatta over a sliced-bread sarnie can double your calorie intake – even more with the speciality fillings. So keep in mind ‘ less is more’.

Ideal: Stick with sliced bread. Go for lean meat, chicken breast, egg or flaked tuna for a healthy option. Add some salad for added taste, and ask for a smidgen of mayo for flavour (no margarine). Or have a jacket potato with beans or cheese (no butter).

OK: So it’s a fast food lunch. But there’s no need to have chips everyday. Try a main-course salad, or a burger, drink with side salad or other veg. Be caf savvy. The reason the cakes and crisps are at eye level when you order is to test your will while hungry – you will pick them up along with your sandwich. Resist the urge… you don’t need the calories. Add a side salad or a piece of fruit instead.


Ideal: Tea is rich in polyphenols – powerful anti-oxidants essential to keep you healthy. More fluid equals better concentration, and with a modest-sized lunch, you lose that mid-afternoon tiredness.

Snacks: Dried fruit – raisins, pineapple or apricots. Lower-fat savoury snacks – rice cakes, low- fat crisps. Multipack portions are usually a third smaller than loose packs – better for you. Low-fat yoghurt drinks or bio yoghurts help with daily calcium needs.

On the way home: Crave chocolate on the journey home? Psychologists say that the moment you take your first bite of chocolate, your urge to eat it diminishes significantly. It’s that distinct ‘mouthfeel’ and sweet taste that’s the key. Less is more.

Evening meal

Typical: Late train home, then beer/ wine while the ready meal cooks. Dinner with a tray in front of the TV; occasionally cooking something from scratch, but usually a bottled pasta sauce to go with your spaghetti.

Ready meals: Having little time and being tired make it easy to rely on ready meals but a heavy reliance on processed foods means you can’t manipulate your total fat, saturated fat and salt intake. Ready meals are usually lacking in vegetables.

Check the label: keep the salt intake to two to three grams per main meal dish. Add a ‘0’ to the grams of fat value. Does this equal or exceed half the calorie value of the meal? Then that’s a high-fat product needing some complex carbs. Potato, rice, pasta, corn and couscous are all good choices.

Is the saturated fat value less than a third of the total fat of the product? If so, that’s a healthy option. If it’s more than a third, don’t make this a dietary staple.

While your ready meal is cooling, throw in a handful or two of fresh or frozen veg into the microwave and within four minutes you will have a nutritionally complete meal.

Cooking from scratch: Base your meal around the vegetables, not the meat. Include some complex carbs, and keep meat lean by cutting off the visible fat. Use olive oil or the cheapest supermarket vegetable oil in cooking for a healthier mono-unsaturated fat intake. Try to include oily (dark flesh) fish at least once a week for its omega-3 fats, which can reduce the risk of heart disease, help mental functioning, and reduce inflammation in the body.

– Advice based on the working day of a typical office worker.

Lifestyle risks

– Commuting, time pressures, high-processed food intake, business lunches

– Stress and fatigue

– Risk of obesity due to sedentary lifestyle

– Increased body weight leads to increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, and the risk of osteoarthritis

– Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, such as angina, heart attack, or stroke

Your alcohol intake

A modest amount of alcohol is good for you – ‘modest’ meaning a pint of beer/lager or a large glass of wine. It’s easy to get into the habit of using alcohol as a ‘wind-down’ after work. It’s also easy to have a second glass, or maybe more. Not only is the alcohol second only to fat as a concentrated source of calories, but a regularly excessive alcohol intake can damage the liver and pancreas.

How healthy are you?

Take our self-test quiz and find out! It only takes a couple of minutes and provides lots of useful advice based on your answers. Go to

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