Clean eating is something people are talking about everywhere these days but it seems there are contradictions as to what exactly “clean eating” means.
Some believe that only organic produce and grass fed meats should be on the menu. Others think that only fruits and vegetables qualify as lean and proteins should consist of beans only.
Still others think that the consumption of a variety of foods, as long as they are not processed, constitutes clean eating habits. But, does clean eating impact work performance? And, if so, how?
For the average American, more than 60% of daily caloric intake is processed in some way. Processed fruit juices, breakfast cereals, chips, meat, cheese products, and bread make up the daily meals of even those who believe they are eating healthy. Food is no longer cooked on a regular basis because adults are simply too busy.
Employees that eat five servings of fruits and vegetables for at least four days per week are more likely to have higher work performance. In fact, eating clean improves productivity on the job by as much as 25% in these cases according to a study conducted on more than 20K employees in the U.S.
Those who consumed more fruits and vegetables over a two week period were happier, more engaged and more creative than those who did not consume fresh produce on a regular basis. Creativity is one of many factors often figured into the productivity of an employee.
Clean Eating Can Improve Your Mental Health
Dieticians have long known there is a direct link between the food people put into their bodies, and the impact it has on their brains. A study at Harvard found consuming probiotics leads to improved moods, and improved mental health, as well as learning that people who consumed vegetable-centric diets had much lower rates of depression, than those who ate meat-centric diets. It is not a far jump to see that maintaining a healthy diet could directly improve moods, reduce the rates of mental illness, and limit risks of developing substance use disorders to cope with any ailing mental conditions.
Workplaces Can Help Employees Eat Clean
One of the biggest struggles when it comes to clean eating is keeping up good habits while working stressful jobs. Often people will choose to eat out for lunch, resulting in choosing meals of convenience over clean, healthy meals that may require meal-planning and prep.
But, as a manager, a member of the HR team, or as the boss, you can do your part to improve the productivity of your work environment by offering employees access to clean, healthy meals. Consider the following steps:
- Help employees to understand the impact of clean eating on their health, happiness and productivity
- Encourage employees to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables: consider a weekly delivery of fruits and vegetables to the office.
- Offer incentives for eating clean. Perhaps you could offer paid time off to those who can prove they are both eating clean and working more efficiently as a result?
- Provide proper lunch breaks that allow people to cook food
- Bring in dieticians to discuss clean eating and meal-prep strategies
- Provide a meditative lunch area away from work desks where employees can focus on mental health as well as clean eating
Steps Employees Can Take to Eat Clean
As an employee, if you’re interested in boosting your work performance by eating clean, consider the following:
- Plan your meals and include fresh produce whenever possible.
- Remember several servings per day will help to boost productivity over time. Aim for 6 servings daily of fruit or vegetables
- Make important food related decisions before you are hungry.
- Eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day rather than consuming one large meal or a few large meals. This is called grazing and it can reduce the impact that food has on blood sugar spikes resulting in improved productivity and equally improved concentration.
- Keep fresh fruits or vegetables available for snacking at all times. Research suggests that we choose what is easily and readily available to use to eat. If it’s chips–you’ll likely eat them. But, if you have fruits or vegetables readily available, those can easily become the go-to snack of choice as well.
The Bottom Line
Talk with your employer or coworkers about eating clean and boosting productivity. See what they have to say and ask if they might be interested in a little competition for fun. Take notes, see if your clean eating really does equate to a boost in work performance over time. A great way to track this is by using a food calendar or diary. Write down what you eat, when and what you do, when. Over time you will be able to track whether your eating habits truly impacted your productivity on a day-to-day basis.