Top chef eats for health
A couple of years ago Nadia Lim was not in a good space. She was working until midnight, skipping breakfast and drinking four cups of coffee a day.
‘‘I got into a place where I wasn’t practising what I was meant to be about.’’
The MasterChef NZ winner, cookbook writer and dietician said she liked to be honest with people about what she went through.
‘‘I’m meant to be this picture of health.’’
While she was working long, hard hours to get her business My Food Bag going, her productivity, motivation, concentration levels and creativity were suffering.
Lim said she knew she was supposed to be a ‘‘guru’’, but she was not practising what she preached.
It was difficult to measure the effect a healthy diet, good sleep and a bit of exercise had on workplace productivity, but thanks to her own experience she knows it makes a difference, she said.
Lim now has her work-life balance back on track and is getting a good breakfast every day – usually an avocado and banana smoothie or a piece of pre-baked breakfast loaf – but she is ‘‘in no way perfect’’.
‘‘I’m not some kind of airyfairy, tree-hugging vegan.’’
But Lim encouraged workers, no matter how busy, to focus on a few simple things to improve their health and wellbeing and boost their productivity.
Preparation is the key for busy parents juggling work and home life.
There is no excuse for skipping breakfast, she said.
‘‘A stitch in time saves nine chocolate biscuits.’’
When the body did not get the right balance of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, energy levels dropped, cutting energy levels in the workplace.
Workers become fatigued, depressed and struggle to be active, she said.
This fatigue often triggered the vicious 3pm sugar cycle.
While sugar and caffeine were OK in small doses, most people needed to cut down their physical and mental dependence, she said.
Sugar is not the ‘‘evil white cocaine substance’’ it has been cast as by some people.
However, it does cause an extreme high followed by a crash, which often prompts workers to reach for more.
Energy drinks were also not the solution to the afternoon slump, with about nine teaspoons of sugar per serve.
Any more than one coffee a day is likely to have a negative effect on sleep, as does alcohol, Lim said.
Workers should not cut out sugar, caffeine and alcohol altogether, but if employees halved their intake of these substances they would see a significant improvement in energy levels and productivity within two weeks.
No matter how busy people are, they should not eat at their desk, Lim said.
It’s important to take the time to enjoy the food and eat it slowly.
Each bite should be chewed about 20 times in order to stimulate stomach acid production and tell the brain the body had consumed a proper meal.
It also gives workers a muchneeded mental break.
She also advised that a healthy diet should be paired with exercise, which has a positive impact on both physical and mental wellbeing.
Lim’s business has implemented weekly morning yoga sessions to help encourage team bonding.
And lastly, regular bowel movements were important.
‘‘You can feel crap when you don’t do your number twos.’’
People suffered from an unsettled, uncomfortable feeling when they did not regularly go toilet, she said.
However, consuming a mix of soluble and insoluble fibre and foods and liquids with high water content would fix that problem.
Equal Employment Opportunities Trust chief executive Bev CassidyMackenzie said workplaces that implemented health and wellbeing programmes saw a measurable drop in workplace injuries, sick days and staff turnover.