I was at a meeting discussing the health crisis in Bermuda the other day and the drink options were: coffee, soda, fluorescent juice cocktail or water.
Obviously given the context, the done thing would have been to drink water ... and most people werenít.
I promise Iím not judging here, it just highlights a big problem ó that when faced with a boring healthy option versus a more fun unhealthy option, we (humans) find it incredibly hard to make a sensible decision.
Compound that with our stressful lives that leave us exhausted and looking for comfort, then itís easy to understand why people pick caffeine or soda for the instant energy and mood boost. The problem however, is that the things we use to sustain us throughout our busy days (caffeine, sugar and often alcohol, too) actually deplete the body of the nutrients we need to buffer ourselves from stress.
So, our short-term fixes fuel a longer-term problem. Iíve been doing an increasing amount of work with corporates and this is an essential piece to get under control.
If you want healthy and productive employees (and who doesnít), then employers need to create a supportive environment in which to be healthy and productive. Healthy workplaces have lower rates of absenteeism and lower rates of presenteeism too ó when people are present, but so lethargic, drained or mildly unwell that they are not being effective at their desk.
Creating a supportive environment means providing easy access to healthy options and less access to unhealthy options.
If the sodas arenít there, nobody can drink them. Thereís nothing to stop an employee bringing their own soda to work, but because of the faff and cost, itís unlikely to happen very often. Iím not saying you have to be so strict that you ban every last tin of Quality Street at Christmas, but it would be great to kick the sodas out of meeting rooms and clean up on-site catering.
After all, itís what we do most days that matters. So, with that in mind, if youíre trying to advocate for a healthy workplace, then here are some quick tips to get you started:
1, We all know it, the soda has to go!
But it doesnít have to be plain water only. Try sparkling water, especially flavoured options like Perrier (they have added strawberry and watermelon to their wheelhouse lately).
I also love La Croixís creative flavours ó cucumber and blackberry, wild cherry and lime. Both are available at Supermart.
Make sure you only buy options that are sparkling water with natural flavours.
Avoid anything with artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners or sugar alcohols (so things like Ice or Bai fall to the wayside here).
2, Decaf or better-caf options
The occasional cup of coffee is fine, but itís best with a meal thatís heavy-ish in protein.
From a heart-health perspective, some people do best with less than 200mg caffeine daily and others with less than 400mg.
To give you a benchmark, a normal regular shot of coffee from a coffee shop has approximately 113mg caffeine.
Decaf provides a better option for most people that enjoy the coffee ritual, but not the caffeine itself. Do try and get a water-processed decaffeinated coffee though.
Green tea can also provide enough of a hit and has some heart-healthy antioxidants running in its favour, too.
3, Better sweeteners
For people that are having tea/coffee and then adding bags of sugar or sweeteners, it would be helpful to provide SweetLeaf Stevia Drops for them to try instead (also Supermart).
Honey or maple syrup are still sugars so are best avoided in drinks.
Agave is OK as a short-term fix while people try and reduce the amount of sugar they need.
4, Choose healthy caterers and snack options
Obviously, if youíre regularly bringing in pizza or Portuguese doughnuts then your staff are going to have a problem.
Try calling the Take Five group (who have Buzz and Devilsí Isle among others) for some better options.
For snacks, I prefer the low-sugar Kind bars (the ones that have Nut & Spice under the Kind logo), the Go Macro bars (choose the high-protein options), or just fruit, vegetables and hummus!
5, Candy amnesty
After Christmas and Easter, when everyone is trying to get back on the healthy bandwagon, it might be helpful to have a candy amnesty.
Get everyone to bring in all the extras they have at home, and then take it all to a homeless shelter or church/charity for wider distribution.
ē Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook