Updated: May 16
We spend most of our adult awake hours at the workplace. Healthful eating is very important to maintain good health and to enhance productivity at the workplace. Workers who eat well are less unlikely to be ill and unlikely to be on sick leave. Thus, it is important managers take eating at the workplace seriously. Workers should have adequate break time to eat. Also, wholesome, healthful foods should be available to staff.
Sources of food for workers include company canteens or cafeterias, packed homemade lunch, street foods, foods from fast food joints or from restaurants. Depending on how well trained the catering staff are and the observance of safe food practices, food from all these places could be safe and wholesome.
In terms of daily calories, we may need about 300kcal to 500kcal of energy per meal, depending on our energy requirement and energy needs throughout the day.
WHAT SHOULD BE ON THAT MENU?
Lunch should be made from foods from the various food groups. There should be a healthy combination of foods. Whole carbohydrates, adequate proteins, vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and adequate hydration (fluid). Have a good balance as seen on the eat well plate.
Variety: A variety of foods should be presented. Remember you spend most of your awake hours at the workplace and you do not want to be stuck with boredom. There is no fixed prescription of what lunch should be. From salads to sandwiches to porridges to your preferred carbohydrate meal with a soup or stew, you can eat whatever it is you are comfortable with.
Food Safety: Not all tasty food is good food. The food prepared should be safe for consumption. Safe food is prepared from the best quality ingredients, cooked and stored at the right temperature and moisture level, in the right containers, away from harmful chemicals and served at the right temperature and on time. Cooked food should be eaten within 1-2 hours of preparation or stored in a good refrigerator (5⁰) and reheated if it is not a cold food (e.g. salads) before eating.
HOMEMADE PACKED LUNCH
This can be made from scratch or could simply be packed up leftover food. Sandwiches make a good easy and quick to make homemade lunch and can be combined with a salad, soup, juice or a milky beverage to have a very balanced meal. Otherwise, just pack some leftover rice or whatever is at home, add a stew and some vegetables and you are good to go. Remember prepared food should be eaten with a max of 2 hours. So if you got the food at work at 7 am or 8 am and you intend to eat it between 12noon to 1 pm. Then you have to keep it refrigerated.
OTHER QUICK MEALS YOU CAN GET
Roasted ripe plantains with groundnuts, gari soakings with groundnuts, banana with ground nuts and yes they are safe. There is nothing chemically unsafe about combining any of these.
THINKING OF STREET COOKED FOOD
I know many people have to rely on street food as it is more available and maybe more affordable. You must choose wisely. From a professional perspective, many things come into play when choosing to eat from a street vendor. Look carefully at the environment. A clean stall means the food probably came from a clean kitchen. Look at the aprons and napkins are they clean? If it is fried food observe the oil being used to cook, does it look fresh or is it overused and nearly brown? Also, observe the people buying from the stall. It can give you a food idea if you want to choose from that vendor. Finally, as I have stated above. Cooked food that is not being continuously kept hot or cold should be eaten with 2 hours of cooking. Do not buy food that was brought to the stall for more than 2 hours. If you have to buy, then buy as soon as it is brought. Refrigerate and reheat as desired when ready.
However, as a company manager, you do not want to see your staff wandering around in search of food. As a worker, you would want to use the best of your time working and meeting your deadlines. Food for company staff should be available. The best bet for your staff ensures that the food is provided on your premises. In an institution of large numbers, staff canteen is a must.
Managers have to recruit well trained competent cooks. Who are well informed as to how to make food taste good, kept safe and presented in an appealing manner
Continues Professional Development
In most of our institution workers are often required to upgrade in skills by undergoing training. Have you wondered the last time the cooks at your canteens received such updates? Everyone needs to learn what’s new and so do your cooks.
Useful Tips from the Food Expert
As part of my many duties as a Dietician with interest in disease prevention, I get invited to give training to the catering staff. These are some of the points that can make a great difference in your canteen food.
· Purchase good quality ingredients. Good food starts with good quality ingredients. Cooking does not enhance the taste of poor quality ingredients. If workplace food is to be enjoyed, then people in charge should ensure that good quality food is purchased to start with. The quality control department should ensure that the food is received in good condition and stored immediately at the right and safe place to be used later
· Menu Development This is essential and trained experts should be tasked with this responsibility. Variety should be ensured and altogether nutritionally adequate.
· Spicing it up Use enough natural spices, garlic, onions, ginger and all the available cooking herbs and peppers. The use of these natural spices brings out the natural taste of food without adding excessive amounts of sodium which could be bad for your blood pressure.
· Cooks should have the right mind-set. Many times the problem with commercially prepared foods is the mind-set that it is prepared “commercially “. People equate mass-produced products with poor quality products and unfortunately, we have seen some cooks cooking with the same intent. What I tell the cooks I have trained is that “you should be responsible for the taste and quality of food you cook”. The right mindset of the cook should be to prepare for whomever, whenever, the person’s best meal of the day. With this in mind, it would be impossible for bad food to leave the kitchen.
As you step out to work today, know that it is not that difficult to pack your own lunch. If you have to buy food, make sure it is from the right source. You are what you eat.