According to the latest government figures1, 61% of UK adults are currently overweight, of which 26% are officially obese. While this is partly due to changing lifestyles and fewer active roles at work, high calorie consumption has become a key factor in what is now one of the world’s fastest growing health problems.
Obviously, as an employer, you can’t force your employees to watch what they eat. But if you want to keep them in good working order, there’s no harm offering a little encouragement. With this in mind, we’ve put together a few suggestions on how to help them understand calories a little better.
As you may be aware, the amount of energy we get from food and drink is measured in calories. And although we all need energy for our bodies to function, consuming too many calories can often result in excess body fat, which is known to cause all kinds of health problems.
In reality, the amount of energy we need depends on several factors, including age, build and how active we are. But as a general rule, a moderately active woman needs around 2,000 Kcal (calories) a day, while a moderately active man needs around 2,500 Kcal (calories).
In simple terms, a person will lose weight if their energy expenditure exceeds their intake of calories. Likewise, they will gain weight if their calorie intake exceeds their energy expenditure.
Reducing the numbers
The concept of reducing the number of calories in our diet isn’t anything new. But it’s easier said than done when you’re tired, hungry and haven’t got time to think. So, if you want to help your employees succeed where others have failed, you might want to pass on these three simple tips:
1. Don’t go without
Missing out on breakfast or lunch may seem like a good way to cut out a few calories, but it’s likely to leave your employees less productive during the day and ravenous at night, which is only going to result in poor decisions at mealtimes – particularly when it comes to portion sizes and food choices.
A much better solution would be to enjoy three healthy meals a day, and try to cut out snacks that are loaded with calories.
2. Think water
If your employees have set a ceiling on the number of calories they’re allowed during the day, getting them to re-think their drinking habits can really help. For example, fizzy drinks and fruit juices are a big no-no, while water is the perfect substitute as it contains zero calories.
Alcoholic drinks have a high calorie content. By encouraging your team to refrain during the week can help to bring down their daily average as well as improving their general health and wellbeing.
3. Look out for calorie labelled menus
A growing number of restaurants list the calorie content of the different meals on their menus. This can be really helpful for anyone who wants to enjoy a relaxing meal out, without worrying about their waistline.
It is worth finding out which local restaurants label their calorie content and letting your employees know. It’s also a good place to start when choosing a venue for your team nights out.
Think quality, not just quantity
One final thing to remember is that counting calories may be a great way to lose weight, but it’s not as important as having a balanced diet. If your employees only look at the numbers, they may be missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
A better way to look at it is that there are good calories and bad calories. Good calories are found in foods that provide nutritional benefits other than just energy. For example, lean proteins (like chicken or fish), healthy fats (like olive oil or coconut oil), and complex carbs (like brown rice or quinoa).
Bad calories are found in foods that contain very little in the way of nutrients or vitamins, such as sugar-based products (like sweets and chocolates), processed foods (like cheese, biscuits and ready meals), refined flours (like white bread and donuts) and unhealthy fats, (like butter and margarine).
Obviously, it’s hard to avoid ‘bad calories’ altogether, but if you want to pass on some tips to your team, here are three rules of thumb that might help:
1. Go organic – stick to natural fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed foods that come in boxes, bags and cans.
2. Stay away from anything white – brown bread, brown rice and brown pasta contain a similar number of calories to their white equivalents, but they’re much better for you.
3. Think quality as well as quantity – go for salmon rather than sirloin, carrot sticks rather than crisps and fruit rather than chocolate. The calorie-count may be similar, but the benefits are noticeably different.