Bored? Hitting the 3pm slump? Try not to reach for the crisps…
A recent study has shown that boredom leads us to making unhealthy snack choices. Sound familiar? From that 3pm slump at work, to reaching into the cupboard when settling in front of the TV at night, why do we tend to go for the sugary, fatty choices?
Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire have shown that boredom is related to low levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which helps control the brains pleasure and reward centres, as well as motivation.
During a study conducted, participants were given either a tedious number copying based task to complete, whilst others watched a boring or funny video. They found the numbers task and boring video lead those participants to choose a large amount of unhealthy snacks such as crisps, sweets, and fast food, in preference to a range of healthy snacks also available.
The researchers theorise that when dopamine levels become low (i.e. when undertaking a ‘boring’ task), we try to then boost this by eating fat and sugar if there is not other alternative to alleviate this boredom. To combat these feelings at work, what are some healthy alternatives to hit our rewards centre?
Setting incremental goals can help, with each small goal or target being achieved resulting in a rewarding experience and little spike in dopamine. Dopamine will start to flow even more once you tick off each subsequent step and continue meeting your challenges. On the food side of things, mixing in some lean proteins, snacking on nuts, seeds, berries and bananas, and adding some beetroot and avocado into your salads are all quick and easy ways to get that boost, without loading up on too much sugar and unhealthy fats.
In 2014, another study highlighted that unhealthy snacks reign supreme in the office, with the top three items being cookies (37%), chocolate (32%) and crisps (30%). Meanwhile, healthy choices, such as fresh fruit (23%), low fat yoghurt (6%) and crackers (2%) lag behind. The findings also revealed that staff love to eat ‘al desko’, with over third of all snacking (31%) occurring at our desks. However, for nearly one in ten people (8%), they admit to snacking in secret whilst at work, in places such behind their computer screens and even the toilets.
What else can you do to help your staff make healthier food choices?
- Make healthy snacks such as seeds, nuts and fruit more available to employees
- Encourage employees to drink water rather than fizzy drinks – many people don’t realise that 8 cups of water a day will do just as much to boost energy as 8 cups of coffee of coke
- Encourage awareness when eating by discouraging meals eaten at the desk (even taking 10 minutes off to focus on eating lunch can help)
- Remind employees that unhealthy snacking is mainly down to habit and it takes 21 days to change this habit (e.g. wean yourself off the automatic biscuit with tea)
You can also educate staff with a Nutrition & Diet Workshop Programme. There are a range of workshops available under this topic, including energy levels, food labelling, weight management, eat to perform and many more. Throughout the sessions Healthy Performance uses interactive methods to engage staff and take the approach of ‘balance’ and eating in moderation. Our team will also be on site answering questions about individual nutritional requirements. For further information, call HP Towers today on 01295 230120.
This article was created by our expert health consultant, Dan Jeffreys.