Social Connectedness and Its Impact on Diet

TIME STAMP: 1 MINUTE READ

Posted by Trista Chan

There’s no question that building and nurturing relationships can bring joy and overall feelings of happiness.  What many overlook is that it can also promote better physical health, a lower chance of developing mental illnesses, and increased job opportunities.

Research has shown that belonging to a social group and being socially connected with others can change your health in terms of diet and exercise. The idea of eating as a form of socializing is not groundbreaking, but many overlook the fact that who you eat with has a significant impact on the types of food you eat, and your overall diet.  Food and social interaction are deeply embedded in us from birth, and without realizing it, our bodies and minds change our diet based on the people around us.  For example, Females tend to eat less calories when they are with men as opposed to women, and both males and females have been known to eat less when they are in front of a stranger.  As a generalization, people tend to mirror their eating partners’ portions, and eat more when in larger groups!

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The big question in all of this is, why? Why do our eating habits change based on who we are with and the social relationship we have with them? There are a number of reasons, and the first is our cultural attitude. In Western society, women are expected to consume less, and its ingrained from a young age.  Thus, they may subconsciously eat less in front of people they want to impress, and similarly, men may eat more in front of friends that they want to impress.

In conclusion, our relationships and the people that we spend the most time with definitely have an impact on the food choices we make and directly correspond with our overall wellbeing. So, whether you are single, married, or trying to impress someone, make sure to pay attention to how much you are eating. Take a moment to think about your surroundings and what exactly you’re about to eat, to not get swept up in the social aspects of the meal. Because why you may be heavily influenced by your surroundings, you are also able to control your own behaviours when it comes to diet and wellbeing.

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3 Refreshing ways to EAT your way to a better mood!

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Being in a positive mood is always ideal for everyone, you work better and feel better and the people around you really react to the positive energy you give off. It really helps with all the decisions you make in your everyday life, so it’s important that you’re feeling your best when making these decisions.

Did you know that food can actually help boost better moods? Well, it’s true! Food helps with better moods, providing you with more energy and it helps you think clearly! Below are my top 3 food tips to help you get into a better mood.

1. Raise your vitamin D levels with food 

When you eat your wild salmon, bake it don’t fry it; when salmon is baked, almost all of the vitamin D content remains, but when fried in vegetable oil almost half of the vitamin D content is lost. Other good food sources are trout, ahi-tuna, mushrooms, and egg yolks, and, our favourite, plain Greek yogurt.

Another cool fact: if you lose just 5 percent or more of your body weight, your vitamin D blood levels will shoot up. Vitamin D likes to stay in fatty tissue, so when you lose fat, the D levels in your blood go up! Marvels of vitamin D: heart health, skin health, immune health & mental health!

2. Enjoy Your Bananas (and other fruits)  

Fruits have amino acids in them and bananas are surprisingly high in tryptophan, that along with its natural sugars makes an ideal situation for creating serotonin. Dates and papaya are also high in tryptophan, but most fruits have enough to make a difference.

Any food with a sweet taste will have a calming effect on the nervous system beyond its carbohydrate content.This is not why monkeys seem so happy but it sure doesn’t hurt!

3. Eat Your Greens

The University of Kuopio in Finland conducted a study with 2,313 men for more than 10 years and they found that leafy greens are good for your brain.

Greens are high in almost all vitamins and minerals but they are particularly high in folate – a B vitamin that has been shown to reduce depression. Kale, collard, and spinach will all contribute to boosting your mood!

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How to Eat Smart  

Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya 

Eating healthy shouldn’t be a struggle, don’t let your long busy day hold you back from making healthy choices. Sometimes we know what the right choices are, we just don’t make them because of the unhealthier temptations around us or because we prioritize work over lunch. However, nutrition is vital if we want stay healthy, prevent illness and have a successful job performance, with a positive outlook.

Here are our top 3 tips on how to eat healthy while you work through your busy work day:

1.  Eat Breakfast
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Don’t hit snooze on your alarm, it’s better to get up 10 minutes early and have yourself a quick breakfast than to sleep in a little longer. I know when I’m trying to rush to work, the last thing on my mind is having breakfast in the morning, however studies have shown that skipping breakfast actually leads to obesity and puts you at a higher risk of susceptible chronic illness such as diabetes or cardiovascular illnesses. It’ll also help you get rid of any cranky or moodiness you feel first thing in the morning. Check out our nutrition content in the Optimity app’s library, ranging from healthy recipes to tips on mindful eating to learn more on eating healthy.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes that’s healthy and simple to make, so you can have anywhere, even on the go!

Yogurt Parfait 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low fat yogurt
  • ¼ cup low fat granola
  • ¼  cup grapes or fruit of choice

Layer your granola and fruit on the yogurt, and enjoy! Your breakfast couldn’t get any easier and healthier than that!

2. Eat with a Buddy

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Distracted eating while working or on your phones may lead to un-healthier food choices and portions. However eating with a friend/colleague will actually boost productivity, since people who eat together will actually work better together, since many researchers attribute eating together as a team building exercise. Eating with a buddy also doubles up as an accountability partner, your buddy can help you stay on track of any health goals you have in place for yourself, as well as make you more conscious of portion sizes when you’re eating with others, you’ll stop yourself from getting a second servings when you’re eating with someone else.

3. Keep Healthy Snacks at hand

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It’s easy to skip meals or substitute your lunch meals with unhealthy processed snacks you have laying around because of how convenient and easy they are to to eat while working. Surround your desk or office kitchen with healthier snacks that you can have between your meals to keep you full. Some helpful suggestion are to have snacks high in fibre and protein, so they can help keep you fuller for longer periods of time. Try keeping a handful of nuts around, but be sure to be cognizant of portion sizes, because too much of anything can actually make you put on weight due to the extra calories. For more helpful suggestions on eating in the workplace, be sure to check out our webinar for more information.

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The way to successfully implement change in your employees healthy lifestyle is to start micro. Micro behaviour changes are key in making positive change to any work environment, because of how easy it is to actually implement. Having an app, like Optimity send out encouraging helpful nudges, and provide really insightful tips and exercise goes a really long way in promoting an overall healthy life.This approach is a lot easier and more rewarding for both the employees and employers, because both have something to gain from the shift. Employees get to change their life, bit by bit, everyday leading to better health, and in addition, get rewarded for it. This as a result, produces better health outcomes for employees, leading to a decrease in health claim cost and a better work ethics.

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If you want to learn more about implementing a successful workplace wellness program and bring down your cost while increasing productivity and engagement, reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com to learn more.

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Let us know how you eat healthy throughout your busy workday!

How to Promote Healthy Heart Lifestyle Choices at your Company (Webinar Recap)

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Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya

We had a great webinar in February, in honour of heart awareness month. I sat down with Optimity’s CEO, Jane Wang to talk through how to promote a healthy heart in the workplace. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:

Why it’s important for employers to focus on an upstream approach to a healthy heart

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 2.43.45 PM.pngHeart disease is costing companies billions of dollars in loss of productivity and absenteeism.

Workplace wellness program can help prevent heart disease for their employees and in return bring down cost.

It’s essential to understand that heart disease can easily be prevented by making small behaviour changes.

See what can you do to prevent heart disease:
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Physical Activity

  • Physical activity elevates your heart rate, which is essential for keeping your heart in shape.
  • Something as simple as taking the stairs, does wonders for your heart. To read more on helpful tips on how to get physically active, especially in the colder months, check out our blog post here on exercise.

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Nutrition

  • Nutrition is key to a healthy life.
  • Some helpful tips in eating healthy is avoiding the foods that are big contributors to heart disease. Processed foods are high in sugar, fat, and sodium, so these should be kept to a minimum.
  • Cook your own food, it allows you to eat as clean as possible when using raw ingredients to make your meal.
  • Eating with others makes you more mindful of what you’re eating, and how much you’re eating. For more information on healthy eating for employees, check out one of our popular webinars on nutrition and mindful eating the workplace for more insightful tips.

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Stress Less

  • Identify your stressors in order to avoid them or create coping mechanisms that work for you.
  • Physical behaviours such as stretching and yoga can help relieve stress.
  • Change your thinking: see if your stressor is actually rational or if you’re just blowing it out of proportion. Try to make your thinking more positive.
  • Meditation is a great technique that can be done just about anywhere, and is proven to reduce stress. Here is another great webinar we’ve done on mindfulness and meditation in the workplace.

 

It’s cheaper to prevent heart disease than to treat it! Simple lifestyle changes can have the biggest positive impact financially and on the individuals health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

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Nutrition Fads to Avoid for 2018

Posted by Jeff Cai

TIME STAMP: 4 MINUTE READ

Every year there are dozens of new diet plans, hacks and tricks that the media create that all claim to help you achieve better health, or lose weight. Some even claim to help you do it in less than a week! And while these diets might work for the short term, some of them are not sustainable, and can even have a negative effect on your body. Here are our top 4 nutrition fads to avoid in 2018.

KETOGENIC DIET

The Ketogenic diet takes low-carb to a whole new level, and suggests that only 5 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates. The goal of this diet is to put your body in a state of ketosis, which is suggested to increase the body’s breakdown of fat stores. While the Ketogenic diet can supress your appetite, ketosis is actually considered a survival mechanism of the body and can cause a severe lack of energy and headaches. And did we mention the fact that fruit is usually off limits too? While the ketogenic diet may work for some, we don’t recommend any diet that cuts out entire food groups like carbohydrates.

ALKALINE DIET

The idea behind the Alkaline diet is that the food you eat has an effect on the body’s internal pH level. It claims that by avoiding acidic foods, and increasing your intake of alkaline foods that your health will be boosted and could even prevent diseases like cancer. The diet focuses on eating alkaline foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and while a predominantly plant based diet is good for you, the BDA have spoken out saying that there is no science behind it. “This diet is based on a basic misunderstanding of human physiology,” says the BDA, “While encouraging people to eat more fresh vegetables is a good thing, the pH of your food will not have an impact on the pH of your blood – and you wouldn’t want it to!” Our bodies are designed to constantly regulate our pH level, so there really is no need to specify your diet to do so.

 

SOUP DIET

The soup diet follows the same basic principals as juicing, except you drink soup. Soup has a variety of health benefits as you can really add whatever health foods you like in there, but it should accompany your diet, not be the sole contender. The problem with soup diets are that they usually contain far too little calories, and are likely to miss out on key nutrients such as protein and fiber. Another con to this diet is that they can be time consuming to make, but if you buy them then you are likely adding unnecessary sodium to your diet. Soup is a great addition to a health diet, just don’t make it the only thing on your dinner table.

COCONUT OIL

Coconut has been very popular for the past few years and continues to be used in everything, from milks, to water and even ice-cream. Coconut oil has even replaced other oils as a house hold staple and it is believed to be metabolized differently than other oil in a way that leads to less fat production, but unfortunately it is still high in saturated fat. Saturated fat has been proven to be linked to heart disease, so while coconut oil might be popular now, there is still no concrete evidence that it is actually better for you. If you do include coconut oil in your diet, just remember to not overdo it.

 

While the above are things that we do not recommend, we do recommend keeping a healthy, balanced diet and finding something that works well for you. Our top tips for keeping a balanced diet are:

 

  • Eat a healthy balance of carbs, proteins and fats. Usually around 45% carbs, 30% protein and 35% healthy fats.
  • Avoid artificial food! Stick with real foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and wholegrains and avoid heavily processed and packaged foods.
  • Set healthy limits. While we would never promote counting calories, listen to your body and if you are full, then stop eating! But if you find yourself getting a little tired throughout the day, then alter your diet to include a bit more energy boosting food.
  • Increase your greens as much a possible. The majority of your diet should be greens and because they have so much fiber, you will feel more satisfied when eating them.

The diet and health food industry are always evolving and coming out with new fads and diets, but it’s important to remember to look in the right place for advice. Just remember that dieticians are the only professionals that are regulated by law to give expert, science-based guidance.

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5 Healthy Eating tips to Survive the Holidays

TIME STAMP: 4 MINUTE READ

Posted by Jeff Cai 

The holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy quality time with your family and friends, but unfortunately this time of year also associates itself with weight gain and poor nutritional choices. We tend to think less about our food and beverage choices and eat things that we usually would not indulge in on a day to day basis.

The good news is, the holidays can still be a time of enjoyment, without the extra weight gain. Around 18% of people say that they struggle to eat healthy during the holidays because they do not want to stop eating their favourite foods, but you don’t have to! You can still indulge, just in moderation. It is all about being more mindful about what we put on our plate.

Here are our top tips for eating healthy during the holidays.

WATCH THE ALCOHOL

Just a single shot of vodka, gin or rum mixed with a diet soda can add an extra 100 calories to your daily intake, and a light beer or wine will set you back about 150 calories. These are fine if you only plan on drinking one, but if you are out with some friends or at your work Christmas party, the chances are that you will be sipping on a few more than just one.

Champagne or prosecco are good options for low calorie drinks, and because they are a little more bubbly, you often spend more time sipping them rather than sculling.

COOK CONSCIOUSLY

Do not completely avoid the cookies, pies and brownies that accompany holiday meals, but be conscious that these treats are often full of fat and not at all good for your waist line, or health in general.

There are simple things you can do that significantly reduce your fat and caloric intake when creating these tasty treats. When cooking pies, cakes or brownies, use half the amount of sugar that the recipe asks. You will save a whopping 744 calories for each cup of sugar that you do not use, and because these treats are usually far too sweet anyway, you won’t have to compromise on taste.

Another calorie dense product that often finds its way into holiday treats is oil. For every half-cup of oil that you leave out of your festive recipes, you will save around 900 calories and 100 grams of fat! Substitutes for oil are super easy and can be anything from pumpkin puree to organic apple sauce.

BRING YOUR OWN DISH

It can be hard to know what is in the food you are eating and the nutritional value of meals that you eat at someone else’s house. To avoid over indulging in a high calorie or unhealthy dish, offer to bring your own dish or snacks over. This way, you know exactly what you have put inside the meal and have something to fall back on if there is not anything of nutritional value.

MAKE A PLAN

If you feel like you have no self-control over what you eat, then the holidays can be a hard time! Try to make a plan of what you will eat when you go to a friends, or have a lunch at your house. For example, tell yourself that you will only have one serving of mains and only 1 piece of dessert. Make your partner or family aware of your plan so they can keep you accountable. This will avoid mindlessly reaching for a second serving, or that third brownie and feeling guilty after.

TREAT YOURSELF…SMARTLY

If you have a sweet tooth and you absolutely will not pass up desert, then don’t deprive yourself! Instead, make small sacrifices throughout the day with your other meals if you know you will be indulging later. At lunch, skip the dinner rolls and butter so that you can indulge in a piece of pie after dinner.

 

The festive season is a time for indulging in food, surrounded by your friends and family, but that doesn’t mean that you need to go overboard and compromise your health and waist line. A few small adjustments to how you look at food this holiday season will make a massive difference on the scales when January rolls around.

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5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes

TIME STAMP: 3 MINUTE READ

Posted by Jeff Cai 

November is National Diabetes Month. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness for a chronic diseases that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s surprising how little people and companies knows about the condition, and how to prevent it, and how to incorporate diabetes awareness into in the workplace.

While diabetes costs an individual considerably higher health care fees, it can also cost a company more money to keep, and look after employees with the disease. Not only is diabetes a completely preventable disease, with about 9 out of 10 cases being easily avoided, but there are also some very easy ways to ensure you prevent diabetes effecting you.

 

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to prevent diabetes.

 1. WATCH YOUR WEIGHT

Although not everyone that develops type 2 diabetes is overweight, the majority are. The more visceral fat (fat around your midsection) you carry, the larger your risk of developing diabetes.

Studies show that losing a small amount of weight can help reduce your risk, and that the more you lose, the more benefits you will experience. Losing just 5kg over several years can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by 50%!

There are many options for losing weight, but the easiest one is to simply watch your portion sizes and add more vegetables into your meals. Choosing a way of eating that you can maintain long term is the key to succeeding with weight loss.

2. CUT THE SUGAR

 Did you know that in 2001, sugar represented more than 10% off the calories consumed by Canadians? Imagine what it represents now, in 2017! This sugar can be hard to identify, as the industry uses so many different names for sugar in labels, so be sure to always check your food labels for hidden nasties. The names you’re looking out for are sucrose, dextrose, fructose-enriched corn syrup, glucose-fructose, malt syrup, etc. These are all different ways to say sugar, and the closer these items are to the top of the ingredients list, the more the product contains.

3. ADD SPICES

An easy and interesting way to prevent Type 2 diabetes is to add more spices in to your diet. Spices such as cinnamon can actually improve glucose tolerance and even has the ability to restrict the amount of glycation products that damage the blood vessel linings.

 Other spices that can be instrumental in the prevention of diabetes are seasonings such as black pepper, thyme and turmeric. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory activity helps to reduce the damage caused by a sugar surplus in the cardiovascular system. So instead of using sugar or salt in your meals, opt to use spices and seasonings to add flavour in to your cooking.

4. NOT ALL FATS ARE THE SAME

Fat is not all bad, but there are definitely different types of fat that should be consumed less to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. Certain saturated fats are known to promote inflammation, indirectly causing insulin resistance, but the main fat in olive oil actually has an anti-inflammatory action, provided that you’re having it cold and not heating it in a pan.

Don’t avoid fats all together, instead, include fats like nuts, avocado and any omega – 3 fats to keep you healthy.

5. DITCH SMOKING

Apart from the fact that smoking, and even second-hand smoke can be linked to type 2 diabetes, smoking has also been proven to contribute to many health conditions, including heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema. In a study of over 1 million people, smoking was proven to increase your risk of diabetes by a massive 44% in average smokers and 61% in people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day.

Researchers have found that even though people can gain weight after quitting smoking, after a couple of years off of the cigarettes, their risk of diabetes was considerably lower.

As an employer, you play a huge role in the lives of your employees. This presents a great opportunity to promote the awareness of the risks associated with diabetes. By supporting your employees in leading a healthier lifestyle, everyone benefits.

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