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As part of the Occupational Health and Safety programme at my place of work (a public service small medium enterprise), I have discussed and come to an agreement with the management to deliver a workshop on the importance of eating healthy in order to prevent obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, (2013) illustrate that workplace health programs are of great potential benefit to both employers and employees. Such educational and awareness programs or strategies enable both worker and the organisation to achieve a holistic lifestyle for better healthy living. These health programs could potentially save costs on absenteeism among employees. They may also reduce the cost of overtime to replace absent employees, as well the costs to train replacements.
The scope behind this program is to give employees guidance on how to choose local fresh produce, rather than the imported or preserved food. This initiative will also raise the awareness about which food to choose and the importance to read the nutritional facts label. It is scientifically proven that fresh products are more beneficial to our health than the imported or preserved ones, both in taste and in vitamin content, because they arrive at our shops soon after being harvested and thus fresher. Yates (2009) supports this theory by quoting that scientifically, meat, fruits and vegetables are more nutritious when eaten as fresh as possible. Malta has a high rate of obesity according to surveys done by the European Commission. Eurostat (2011) reports that Maltese men occupy the top position of the European obesity rankings while Maltese women placed themselves second. In their ‘Paediatric Obesity’ journal, Fox and Jago (2011) who are both established researchers in paediatric studies, claim that Maltese children are the second fattest on the globe.
Plan of Action
The presentation is aimed mainly for both employees who cook at home and those who buy their snacks from vending machines or take away snack shops making them aware of how to choose healthy options, such as choosing baked not fried food, brown bread instead of white bread, fresh instead of processed or preserved food products. The employee age bracket varies from 18 to 50+ years of age. The workshop would be planned with the human resources department and it will be held in the training room of the company. Employees will be notified by means of a letter distributed internally for at least two weeks before. The workshop would take place during working hours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon in order to give the opportunity for everyone to attend at their preferred time. The workshop will be delivered by a qualified person in the matter and illustrated with charts and pictures accompanied with some motivational quotes. To support this strategy, the vending machines will be supplied with more genuine healthy choices rather than the usual junk food as per agreement with the supplier. Another initiative is that the company will supply a service of surveillance scheme by launching free optional medical check-ups every 12 months sponsored by the company.
Information and facts about eating
Years of research studies were carried out to come out with the result on what is contributing to the development of cardiovascular diseases. The WHO (2013) reported that a lifestyle based on high saturated fats, dairy products rich in fats and processed meat is the main cause for obesity and cancer reported.
There is no doubt that all the food that we consume can have an important effect on our health and well being. Nestle and Nesheim (2012) reports that the daily average calories consumed by men must be not more 2,500 calories while women must consume 2,000 calories supported with some physical exercise. To lose weight, one must either consume fewer calories than needed or burn calories through physical activity. The combination of both is the ideal way to obtain fat loss while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Anyone who eats more calories than he/she burns will put on weight as the extra calories are stored as fat by the body. Therefore, with the right diet and by controlling eating habits and with a routine of physical activity, any person can lose weight. The benefits of eating healthily are; having more energy, self-confidence, a healthier heart, respiratory and circulatory system (Hunter, 2003). Nowadays, the best method to of determining the ideal body weight is by measurement known as Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI can be calculated by dividing the body weight in kilograms by the square of body height in meters (Kg/(m)2) and the ideal BMI reading should be 20 to 22. If it is more than 30 there would be the need for a change in lifestyle and to eat healthy and exercise more often. Ideally, this needs to be a way life and not a short term quick fix.
During the presentation information and guide tips will be given to the employees on how to choose the right food and drink wisely. This presentation will also explain how the body works and how important it is to eat the right food and take smaller portions regularly. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the human body. Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of foods such as wheat, potatoes and pasta. Food rich in carbohydrates is ideal to be taken in the morning since carbohydrates are what give energy to the body. Some popular diets project carbohydrates as the source that generates body fat and obesity build up. However, the truth is that we do need carbohydrates in our diet, but not exceeding the required amount and not those containing unhealthy fats. For instance, wholegrain carbohydrates are the best choice since they contain vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are essential for good health. Lack of carbohydrates will make you feel weak and without drive, so one should not cut them completely but choosing healthy options.
“Protein is found throughout the body, in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue” (Harvard School of Public Health, 2014). Protein builds up, maintains, and replaces the muscle tissues in our body. The human body is made up of at least 10,000 proteins. However, the body functioning system does not store amino acids. On the other hand, it does store carbohydrates and fat. Therefore a daily intake of amino acids is needed to build new protein. Best protein sources with law saturated fat is found in lean beef, chicken or turkey breast, liver, fish, eggs, dairy products such as cottage cheese, nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), seeds, beans and lentils. It is highly important to choose the right protein in your food choices since some protein is rich in saturated fats. Beans, vegetables, and whole grains, are the best choice, as they are rich in healthy fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Almonds and hazelnuts are rich in healthy fats. Fish, chicken breast and beef liver are considered as the best animal protein and if you go for red meat try to choose the leanest cuts and try to avoid pork, lamb and processed meat such as burgers, sausages, breaded fish/poultry since the latter contain high amount of fats.
If someone decides to dine out, as starter one could avoid high carbohydrates foods such as pasta and instead have an antipasto involving salmon, which is rich in protein and vitamin D and Omega 3. Apart from the calories and carbohydrates pasta contains, the sauces that go with it are mostly fat laden and therefore as a starter it would already be too filling. One can also opt for chicken salad, soup or skip the starter altogether. As a dressing, one can go for squeezed lemon, olive oil or balsamic vinegar instead of mayonnaise. As main course, one could opt for fish steak, lean fillet, or chicken breast and avoid processed or fried food. Instead of fries one can choose baked potatoes and try to cut down the bread intake. As a dessert, instead of indulging in a high calorie cake rich in sugars and fats one can opt to fruit salad which at least contains natural fructose and vitamins. In this manner, one can be enjoying food which is still tasty but is healthier. As a drink, it will be ideally that one will opt to drink water or a glass of dry wine rather than soft drinks which contain a large amount of calories and sugars. Sugar-sweetened soft drinks are non-beneficial to the human body. It is understood that these beverages are contributing to diabetes and heart disease. Harvard School of Public Health (2014), argue that by cutting down sugar-sweetened beverage intake will reduce the risk of obesity-related illnesses and that such statement is backed up with sufficient scientific evidence.
A snapshot of the presentation’s content: Avoiding illness through the food we eat
By the end of 1945, the Life Expectancy (LE) of EU citizens started to increase. There were improvements in the sanitary system, more epidemiological data and more quality improvements in medical cure. Furthermore, statistics estimate issued by the Malta Statistics Office reveal that the LE of a person born in Malta in 2013 is 82.2 for females and 78.0 for men (NSO, 2013). The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long since been promoting healthy eating patterns. As much as humans need clean air and access to water, food is a vital necessity for human health but it has to be healthy. Our health is particularly affected by agriculture and the other sectors involved with food supply. Therefore, to promote a healthy way of living there must be ongoing publicity to instruct the public the benefit of eating healthy food (Danzon, 2000). Nevertheless, although life expectancy in Malta has increased, statistics still show that the average Maltese person spends 7.1 years (9% of LE) with illness, due to lack of adequate knowledge about health (WHO, 2005).
Hunter (2003) argued that by being obese, one is subject to high probability risk to serious health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, reproductive disorders, gallstones, osteoarthritis and certain type of cancer. Moreover, the WHO (2005) issued a report about non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Malta and such illnesses accounted for about 84%. NCD vary from heart disease, stroke (cerebrovascular accident), cancer disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes.
Food produced locally
Healthy eating campaigns promote the intake of small portions of healthy food every three hours to prevent weight increase, whilst related research studies acknowledge that the lack of combined healthy nutrients increases the risk of non-communicable diseases (WHO, 2000). Moreover, locally produced vegetables and fruits are fresher, with high source of nutrients content than the stored produce that are imported. Imports have the disadvantage of long distance travelling until they reach our market. During transportation, the source of nutrients is highly likely to be reduced while repetitive exposure to oxygen may quicken the deterioration process as oxidation may change its composition. The Food Revolution (2014) argue that since the food system is dominated by a few producers, when there is no other option for healthy food, the industrial food production methods (un-healthy) are determining our well-being. WHO (2000) stretches out that by having at hand the availability and the accessibility of fresh produce, there will be less need to buy long shelf-life products, with lack of vitamins and minerals and abounding in high calories, preservatives, salt and sugars. Farming and fishing is part of the Maltese heritage, so promoting healthy and fresh produce contributes to the local market, a good economy and a healthy lifestyle.
Through this information awareness workshop, I hope that the targeted audience will choose to eat healthier, to buy more fresh local produce and to start preparing their food for their working day cooked in their kitchen, rather than buying junk food from the vending machines or take away shops. Due to family commitments, responsibilities, and other social obligations, for the majority of people engaged in a full time job, the maintenance of their individual well-being is often seen as a difficult task to meet with all the day demands. The adoption ofhealthy behaviourswill reduce risks for life threatening diseases from developing, it will reduce their associated costs and moreover it will improve the quality of life (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).This will hopefully help out in today’s fast paced world and also help to minimise the consumption of ready-made and fast foods which are contributing to ill-health, obesity and disease. This is costing the government and employers millions in treatments and in sick pay and medical support. Moreover, it is hoped that following these guidelines will help to extend a good quality of life and reaching WHO-Europe’s aims and goals. Such targets are that by the year 2015, our society will adapt to healthy patterns of living by having good quality of air, access to water and a lifestyle based on healthy eating and physical activity.
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