by: Stephanie Pichan
I’m sure you’ve heard people say, or most likely even experienced yourself, that changing your eating habits rarely happens in one day, it’s a process that takes a lot of small modifications over days, months, or even years. I’m often asked how I began eating healthy and, to be honest, there’s not really a specific time or huge life-altering event I can pinpoint, it all happened over the course of several years. Although there are lots of different strategies that can be used to influence and encourage behavior change, one thing I’ve noticed in my own experience, and through observing others, is that an environment that embraces and supports healthy behaviors can make all the difference.
So, what about your work environment? You spend 40, maybe even more, hours per week at work. Eating healthy during the 8-5 work day can be a challenge for sure, but it’s not impossible. In fact, depending on how you look at it, this time can provide significant opportunity each week to start taking steps towards healthy eating if you have the right resources. One way to create a more supportive environment at work is to equip the work kitchen. An equipped work kitchen or breakroom can be such a powerful tool for supporting healthy eating and, ultimately, employee health and performance.
So, how can you set yourself, co-workers, or your employees up for success? Check out list below to see what items you can start adding for a well-equipped work kitchen… or if you already have them, dust them off and put them to use! This list covers the basics to help you get started, but definitely doesn’t exhaust the possibilities.
Everyone knows drinking water is important; if affects every cell and system in our bodies. Sufficient water intake can increase energy, help with cognitive and physical performance, prevent headaches, the list goes on. Purchasing or renting a water cooler is a small investment to ensure employees are getting adequate water intake to feel good and perform their best. Choose one with a hot water spout for tea and other healthy hot beverages. If a water cooler isn’t an option, a water filter pitcher is an alternative, but may not be as effective since it would require frequent fillings and waiting for the water to chill. Less effort = better.
If there isn’t already one in your work kitchen, it’s definitely worth the investment. A large refrigerator is your best bet, but, if it’s not an option, a small one will do the job. You can store all sorts of food from nut butter to eggs to healthy prepared meals. I keep fruit that I can easily grab for a snack, vegetables to slice up with lunch, a large container of yogurt for breakfast or an afternoon snack… There really is no limit. Treat it like you would a refrigerator at home, but don’t forget to respect other’s shelf space and keep it clean!
Toaster ovens are highly underrated in my opinion. I’ve recently discovered there’s so much you can make with this little appliance aside from making toast. I’m just getting started, but have already made eggs baked in ramekins with tomatoes and topped with goat cheese and cilantro, baked sweet potatoes, roasted tomatoes….Just Google healthy toaster oven recipes and see all the possibilities. Make sure you have the right equipment and accessories to effectively use the toaster oven, such as a small cookie sheet, ramekins, a muffin tin, and hot pads. Also, make sure it’s in a safe, level place and always make sure it it turned off after use and before leaving the building.
Although I’m not a huge fan of using a microwave and prefer to heat food on the stove or in an oven, a microwave is quick and super helpful for people to heat up meals and leftovers which are likely healthier (and cheaper) than going out for lunch. Make a healthy meal or two at the beginning of the week to keep at work throughout the week.
Smoothies are a great way to easily increase your fruit and vegetable, give you a boost of energy, and add some protein to your meal or snack. Pick up some fruits and veggies and other smoothie ingredients (flax oil, protein powder, coconut milk, etc) at the beginning of the week so they’re ready to go! You can even make individual jars or bags of smoothie ingredients that you can simply put into the blender, pour in your liquid of choice and blend. Just make sure to put any wet ingredients on the bottom of the jar.
Toast is a quick and healthy snack. Keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and coconut oil and nut butter on hand. It’s a quick, easy snack that will satisfy hunger and give you a boost of energy. You can even top the toast with tomatoes and/or avocado and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and with a sprinkle of sea salt. It’s delicious.
Cookware and other kitchen ware
These are some other essential items to help with the prep and cooking process:
- Cutting board
- Small cookie sheet
- Salad spinner
- Oven Mitt/Hot pads
- Utensils, cups, plates, etc.
- Make sure appliances, and where you place them, are within fire codes and standards.
- Do a little planning at the beginning of each week and buy food to keep at work that can be easily prepared during the week. A little bit of work before the week starts takes a lot of stress out of having to figure out each morning what to pack that day. Just give it a try, even for one week.
- Pool resources with coworkers for healthy staples such as sea salt, olive or coconut oil, etc.
- Start slow – begin with snacks, then move to lunch. If you’re able to eat breakfast at work, that’s an easy place to start too.
- Always keep a supply of fruit, nuts, yogurt, granola, or other snack item on hand for when you get hungry so you don’t go reaching for the candy dish or other unhealthy choices.
- At the beginning of each week, bring in homemade soup, supplies for sandwiches (loaded with veggies of course!), or other healthy meal to last the week.
- Share recipes and ideas with co-workers.
- Be a role model at work! If you start making changes, your coworkers may be encouraged to start making changes too.
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About the author:
Stephanie Pichan is the Health and Wellness Coordinator at Whitaker LaChance Agency in Portage, Michigan. She’s a graduate of the Community Health Education program at Western Michigan University where she worked on an innovative team for 10 years developing health technology behavior-change interventions. She has a specific interest in the area of holistic health and believes in the healing power of food and its role in disease prevention. Although she strives to get at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, she believes it’s important to indulge from time to time; ice cream is usually the winner. Whether through work, volunteering, or every day connections, she’s passionate about helping others live their best life possible. Stephanie is developing the health and wellness area at Whitaker LaChance and using her creativity to contribute to the vision of the marketing team. She’s excited to be an integral part of helping the agency grow and expand.