The Raya holidays have come to a close – beautiful family photos have been taken, messages of forgiveness and love exchanged, lemang and rendang have been devoured… and now, the prospect of returning to a regular work schedule looms. Whether you feel as though you went overboard in the revelry of the festive season or are proud to have stuck to your healthy diet goals, back-to-work week is a great opportunity to start afresh (or keep up the good work!) in building the healthy lifestyle you deserve.
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Regardless of the type of work you do, taking small steps to care for yourself can make a huge difference in productivity, job satisfaction, and of course, your long term health! This week, we talk about eating healthy at work by focusing on three key steps: eating on time, choosing the right foods for your meals, and snacking smart to fill any gaps in your daily nutritional intake.
1. Eat on Time
Ever skipped breakfast as you were rushing to work? Or gotten so caught up with work that you forgot to eat? While some people can get away with missing a meal, most of us find that delaying meals for too long can result in an energy crash later in the day. This can manifest in the form of fatigue, irritability, and most commonly, a sudden and overwhelming sense of hunger which will have you reaching out for any available food or snack, kicking all thoughts of good nutrition to the curb.
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If this sounds like you, make a conscious effort to have your meals on time. Prepare breakfast the night before, or choose something that requires minimal preparation, like a handful of granola and a packet of soymilk. Set an alarm to remind you to take lunch and snack breaks, or round up some friends and commit to having lunch together a few times a week. Even explore bringing food from home – you’re more likely to eat it if it’s readily available and you’ve put all that effort into preparing it.
2. Eat the Right Stuff
Now you’ve gotten good at eating on time, level up by making each meal count as much as possible. Standard hawker fare in Malaysia, while cheap, can lack balance, often going overboard with refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, to the detriment of quality protein, vitamins, and minerals (think large plate of fried noodles with a few strands of vegetables).
For example, think of a bowl of fishball noodles – the bulk of the dish is formed by the noodles (refined carbohydrates), while protein is scarce (fishballs contain more starch fillers than fish!), and vegetables are virtually non-existent (two strands don’t count for much!).
Instead, look for nutritious food options in your area that give a good balance of:
- Carbohydrates (rice, noodles, pasta, bread – bonus points for whole grains!)
- Protein (lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans)
- Healthy fat (olive oil, sesame oil)
- Vitamins and minerals (fruits and vegetables!)
Your best bet would be to go for economy rice stalls – choose brown rice (if possible), lean protein sources, and plenty of vegetables. Stay away from deep-fried foods and rich gravies, which add a lot of unhealthy fat and extra calories without providing much nutrition.
Alternatively, make friends with your local hawkers and ask for modifications that improve on the balance of the standard hawker fare – ask for more lean protein and vegetables, and for less oil, rice or noodles.
3. Snack smart
If no such food options exist in your area, just do your best with what you have – even small changes count! Consider eating a smaller portion at your main meals and instead, use quality snacks as bonuses to bump up your daily nutrition tally. As mentioned above, it is generally difficult to find whole grains, quality proteins, healthy fats, and enough vitamins and minerals (especially in the form of fruits) in the standard Malaysian diet. So, plan your snacks to make up for this deficit – have some crunchy nuts for a boost of protein and healthy fat, fruits (fresh or dried) for a satisfyingly sweet source of vitamins and minerals, or crunchy granola mixes for all of the above, with the added benefit of whole grains!
Remember to plan your snacks ahead of time, too – keep them varied to avoid getting bored. Also keep them close at hand to avoid falling to the temptation of the common office pantry, where you are at the mercy of your colleagues’ snack choices – they may fill your growling stomach, but do nothing for your nutritional health. Better still, take charge of the office pantry and get everyone on the healthy snack bandwagon!
Fueled body and soul by the Raya festivities, let us forge into a happy, healthy, productive week ahead! Happy working (and mindful eating), Grazers!