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Healthy eating strategies for the workplace

Healthy eating strategies for the workplace- a focus on food quality, meal timing and motivators that influence food choice

Alison M Coates, University of South Australia

Eating a balanced diet rich in all essential nutrients can be a challenge and knowing which foods to focus on or limit can be confusing with mixed messages in the media. For some, the challenge is about energy balance and weight maintenance, whilst for others the focus may be on optimising diet quality to ensure cognitive and/or physical are maintained, but for many taste, cost and accessibility are the key factors that drive food choice.

Whilst the nutrient quality of a person’s diet is important, recent findings suggest that it is also important to consider not only what foods are consumed but also the time at which they are eaten. Poor diet quality is also often associated with unusual work hours, such as shift work. Whilst high energy dense foods such as ready- to-eat high fat, high sugar snack foods may be readily available, of greater concern is the alteration in metabolic response seen when these same foods are consumed at night compared with during the day.

Promoting healthy food and lifestyles choices as well as gaining a better understanding of the impact of altered timing of eating, has great potential to impact on the metabolic health of workers. In addition, mood is a motivator of food choice, therefore fatigue and other negative moods experienced by shift workers could result in unhealthy food choice.

This presentation will provide an update on the evidence that work patterns and environments, and mood are key components that influence the diets of workers. It will include data from a range of industries and discuss the challenges that many workers face with meeting dietary guidelines and strategies that could be used to improve diet quality.