Nutritionist Lucy Hyland

Canteen Confusion

September 11, 2023
Posted by Lucy

Check out my latest blow with Irish Executive Network on fuelling your body the right way, for the whole day:

The Canteen Paradox

I was recently asked to take a look at the menus and snack options available in a canteen of an international company based in Dublin. Nothing unusual there, so off I went to have a look around and gather some feedback. However, my excitement about working with this company quickly changed to astonishment, as I looked at the range of foods available. What was happening on the ground was very different to what I thought.

The company in question was known for looking after its staff well (with a well established wellbeing programme) and in return expected high work performance and long hours. But when I entered the canteen I found a wide range of sugar and salt ridden snacks. The cereal choices were highly processed high sugar options, their snacks included mostly crisps and sweets, and their drinks section contained mostly soft drinks and high sugar fruit juice drinks.

The two just didn’t add up. How did a company expect its staff to work long hours and perform at their best when they were being provided with low nutrient, fast energy release foods? It’s a question I often ask my clients: how do you expect yourself to perform at your best over the course of the day when you are not giving your body the appropriate fuel to keep going.

In the short term, you can go to the canteen, get a caffeinated or high sugar drink and grab a quick bar of chocolate or bun, and certainly for 30-40 minutes you will be alert and active at work. In this state your blood sugars are high. However, in the longer term, what follows is a dip where concentration and focus wains, your eyes start getting tired or you start to yawn i.e. a low blood sugar levels. Of course, in a sugar low there is only one thing on your mind. Certainly not work, more like another tea and sugary snack!

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle and one that many office workers find themselves in. But the cycle can be broken, and performance and concentration can be improved: by snacking on less refined and whole foods. These foods still have many of their nutrients in tact, take much longer to digest and release their sugars or energy over an hour or two. Slow release sugar fruits, wholegrain crackers, cereal bars made with whole grains, nuts and seeds are great options.

So next time you start to yawn around 10.30 a.m., start recognise the signs and chose some whole food options to sustain your performance and energy levels until lunch.

O & B Canteen





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