The 21st century occupational hazard: Unhealthy eating

Are you up for a challenge?

You’re rushing for time, you’ve got back to back meetings scheduled for the morning and your stomach is starting to growl. You’ve not eaten anything since you’ve walked through your office doors.

So, to fill your stomach, you hastily grab a few packets of cream-filled biscuits during a short meeting break and stuff them into your mouth as quickly as you can.

The next thing you know, you’re hungry again in an hour and your meeting is still going on although it’s time for lunch.

Is this a common scenario at your workplace?

As a working adult, your eating habits play an important role in shaping your health, especially during office hours as you spend a huge chunk of your day at the office. Unfortunately, there are several work-related factors that are getting in the way of keeping you healthy and many of them have got to do with your eating habits at work.

For example, choosing the convenience of fast food or processed food from the pantry over freshly prepared food is something that all of us are guilty of.

So, in the hopes to inspire you to practice healthier eating habits at work, we bring to light some common practices that’s influencing unhealthy eating habits at the office and making it an occupational hazard.

Quote: As a working adult, your eating habits play an important role in shaping your health, especially during office hours as you spend a huge chunk of your day at the office.


Health Hazard: Deceiving convenience

Sometimes, getting something a bit too easy does not necessarily mean that it’ll be all worth it. In the case of easily accessible food at work, your health is usually the price to pay.

When you’re caught up with time or rushing to meet a deadline, what to eat is probably the last thing on your mind. Though, your stomach still needs to be filled and sooner than you know it, you’re too hungry to function. So, quick and convenient food is usually what many result to.

Pre-packed instant food and fast food are typical options for situations like this but of course, let’s state the obvious here, they’re not the healthiest food options. Fast and instant food are usually packed with preservatives, sugar, sodium, simplified carbohydrates and heavily processed ingredients, making it a meal with very little nutrients.

Hazard prevention:

Preplan your meals weekly and ideally on weekends as your days are more laid back which makes it a great time for you to plan well. Then, cook your lunch for the week in advance, pack them into individual food containers and freeze. Each day, bring a pack to work and heat it up at the office. This is a healthier option as you’re able to control the ingredients in your meal. Plus, if you’re truly caught up, you could perhaps get your colleague to do you a favour by heating up your food. Yes, it’s that convenient!


Health Hazard: Hazardous colleagues

When it comes to healthy eating, it’s always easier to make healthy food options and stick to it when you have the support of the people around you. Though, this can be a challenge at work. A workplace consists of people with different personalities and interests and not all of them may be in agreement with you when it comes to food choices.

You may have colleagues who would jump on the bandwagon with you and opt for healthier food options while you’ll also have those who retaliate at the sound of the word “salad”.

So, beware of your group of colleagues that could encourage unhealthy eating throughout your day at the office such as snacking on junk food or ordering a cup of sugar-filled bubble tea daily.

Hazard prevention:

A polite “no, thank you” is sufficient if you’re being tempted with unhealthy food by your colleagues. Have a pack of nuts with you or fruits as snacks instead. You could also suggest food and snack options that are healthier and also delicious.

Health Hazard: Challenging costs

Sticking to a food budget is a great way to manage your finances. However, this would also mean a fixed and possibly lower budget for your daily meals. Especially in Asian countries, economical meals usually have a large portion of carbohydrate that make perfect stomach fillers at a lower cost such as rice and noodles.

Take a plate of noodles for example. The bulk of the dish would be noodles and fried with just a handful of protein and vegetables. Unfortunately, this is not in line with an ideal meal plan and sticking to options like these daily results in an unhealthy diet.

Yes, as a working adult that’s saving up, it can be difficult to eat healthy and yet stick to your budget but there’s some good news! There is a solution to this.

Hazard prevention:

Identify shops or hawker stalls that sell a variety of dishes for you to pick and choose from which you will then pay accordingly. This way, you’re able to portion your meal well by limiting your carbohydrate intake to a healthy portion and opting for dishes that contain more protein (such as tofu, eggs and meat) as well as vegetables. Plus, you also have the flexibility to opt for dishes with ingredients that are cheaper but equally nutritious and fresh such as chicken instead of squid.


Health Hazard: Inconsistent is not key

It’s not just what you eat but when you eat affects your health too. Have you ever skipped a meal or postponed it because you’re too busy at work? Or do you have the habit of eating only when you’ve got ‘time’?

A 2016 medical study found that no matter how healthy your diet is, having irregular meals could still put you at risk of obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Sitting at your desk and being hard at work while your colleagues are out for their lunch may seem like you’re giving a positive impression but it’s actually being silly of you.

Besides skipping your meal which is a hazard to your health, working at your desk for long hours without breaks could also give the impression that you’re not able to cope and manage your workload well. Hence, this could leave a negative impression among your colleagues and boss instead.


Hazard prevention:

When it’s time for lunch, no matter how overwhelmed you are with work, take a break and enjoy your meal. After all, there’s no point working extra hard when you’re not able to enjoy the results of your hard work if you’re ill.

You could also set a daily timer to notify you that it’s time for lunch or discuss with your colleagues to notify each other. Taking an official lunch break also gives you sufficient time to enjoy your food while socialising with your colleagues.


The consequences of unhealthy eating habits especially at work may not be seen immediately. Though, its effects will gradually affect your health and you’ll soon realise that you’ve gained weight, feel lethargic easily and it could even put you at risk of life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol and even cardiovascular diseases.

A healthy employee is a happy employee and this creates a positive chain effect in an organisation. Be aware of this 21st century occupational hazard that can affect any working individual and its consequences could crush your career dreams.

So, keep diseases at bay by practicing healthy eating habits at work and encourage your colleagues to do the same.