Updated 01 July 2013

Nutrition in the workplace

Having a canteen at work is very convenient, however, how healthy is the food that it serves?

Having a canteen at work is very convenient - with the rush hour in the morning and trying to get to work on time, packed lunch is often the last thing on your mind. However, how healthy is the food that is served at your work’s canteen? The foods may be yummy, but they may also be loaded with kilojoules, salt, sugar and fat – not great if maintaining good health is important to you. An unhealthy diet has been linked to numerous chronic diseases, not to mention your expanding waistline.

You can make canteen foods work for you by looking out for healthier options. A healthy, well-balanced diet is rich in vegetables and fruits, high in fibre, and low in fat and salt. It also includes fish at least twice a week – oily fish such as tuna, sardines and salmon is particularly healthy as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

If your canteen serves fresh produce, choose a salad with some grilled chicken or fish; or go for a wholewheat sandwich with some fruit. If it serves mostly fast foods and quick snacks, try the following options: a bran muffin, some low-fat yoghurt and fruit; a pasta dish made with a tomato-based sauce and not a creamy cheese sauce; baked potato wedges instead of French fries; or the daily soup and a roll. When having to choose between a toasted sandwich, a hamburger and a slice of pizza, choose the hamburger – it has fewer kilojoules and contains less fat than the other two choices.

Pack your own

However, when it comes to lunchtime meals, the best choice is still to pack your own. Packing lunch doesn’t have to be a mission, just follow these easy steps and your health and wallet will thank you:
  • Make a sandwich with wholewheat or low-GI bread with peanut butter, jam/honey and sliced banana;
  • Make a tuna, sweetcorn and apple roll by combining drained, flaked tuna with creamed sweetcorn, chopped apple and a dash of mayonnaise and chutney on a roll;
  • Make a salad by cutting hard-boiled egg into slices and mixing it with chopped ham, tomato wedges, gherkin slices, feta cubes and fresh lettuce – flavour with olive oil and some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. You can also make variations of this salad by using cottage cheese, left-over meat cut in cubes and other veggies that you can find in your fridge.
  • Fill a wholewheat wrap or pita with left-over chicken breasts cut in small cubes, lettuce, tomato, onion and fresh pineapple. You can also try canned or cooked beans, salsa and a tablespoon of grated cheese.
  • Make an easy pasta meal by tossing some pesto sauce in left-over pasta noodles and garnishing with some parmesan cheese. If you have leftover bolognaise sauce, use instead.
  • Cook a pot of chunky vegetable soup and freeze in single portions to take to work and enjoy with wholewheat bread.
  • Fight the hunger pangs and munchies between mealtimes by snacking on dried fruit, unsalted nuts, seeds, unsalted popcorn, cheese blocks, yoghurt, fruit, baby tomatoes, cucumber and carrot sticks.
Keep your home-packed lunch fresh by packing it in a cooler bag with one or two icepacks. Whatever your tastes; stick to foods that are unprocessed and not fried as they will be lower in fat and salt. Following a healthy balanced diet will ensure good health and well-being in the long run.


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