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You are what you eat: What you need to know about nutrition and your work health


Feeling tired and sloggy? It’s probably what you’re eating.
Confused and irritable? Yep. Food’s probably to blame.
Not looking like you did when you were 18 and irresistible? Could be the food. Probably a few more things too...

Here’s the truth. There’s more to food than shoveling it from the plate to your mouth. No matter how tasty it may (or may not) be, the bottom line is that food takes on an important role in our lives from social interludes to health, to energy, or even your work performance.

That’s why we’re starting with the basics. Because in every great construction project, you need to understand the basics and build the foundation before anything else.

What Does the Word Diet Really Mean?

Diet is a term used to describe the foods and beverages we consume. The word is often confusing because it may also mean people trying to lose weight. Technically speaking, everyone has a diet, some just go a little crazy and decide to only drink soup and call it the “soup diet.” Don’t worry - that’s not what we’ll be suggesting you do here.

Nutrients. They’re Important. Here’s Why:

A nutrient is any substance found in food and beverages that can be used by the human body for energy, building tissue, or regulating bodily functions. Essential components to optimal health and wellness must be obtained through the diet and cannot be made by the body. The term macronutrient is used to describe nutrients needed in large amounts such as carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients because they are required in smaller quantities.

Meet the Nutrients
There are six classes of nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Lipids – fats and oils
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Normal growth, development, and optimal functioning of the human body require 45 essential nutrients that must be supplied by the diet. Essential nutrients are needed by the body but, as it has been mentioned earlier,  are not produced by the body. A low intake of any of them increases the risk of developing a deficiency or adverse changes in health.

Why are we telling you all this?
Because nutrition can get really technical and really confusing. And we want to make sure you know the facts. With so many myths out there, we want you to be armed with the truth, so you can start making healthy decisions. Stick with us, we’ll keep this brief.

76 percent of Americans consumed less than the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are based on peer-reviewed, scientific data. They are updated every five years by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (USDA-DHHS).

The goal of these recommendations is to promote health and prevent major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. And FYI, the top causes of death in the United States are linked to a poor diet, lack of physical activity, and excessive calorie intake. The take home message of the DGA is to encourage Americans to eat less, move more, and make wiser food choices.

Know What You’re Eating to Make Healthier Choices
Despite the numerous and widespread guidelines for adopting a healthy diet, most people miss the mark. Only three percent of the U.S. population meets four of the five recommendations for the intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, milk products, meat, and bean food groups. In a national survey of fruit and vegetable intake, 76 percent of Americans consumed less than the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

In contrast, the top five consumed foods among Americans include: 1) sugared beverages; 2) cake and sweet rolls; 3) hamburgers; 4) pizza; 5) potato and corn chips. (Sound familiar?) These items are high in added sugars, fat, salt, and calories which experts agree should be consumed in limited amounts. It is important to recognize that eating these foods frequently is indicative of poor dietary habits which ultimately lead to excessive calorie intake, inadequate nutrient intake, unwanted weight gain, and related health problems.

What should I eat?

Making wise food choices includes consuming a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean protein. Saturated and Trans fats, salt, cholesterol, sugar, and alcohol should be limited. (Say goodbye to the food truck and hello to bringing your own healthy lunch– we didn’t say this was going to be easy!)

Proper hydration is extremely important for active individuals, such as people working on jobsites and other physically demanding tasks.

Ideally, your daily food intake should include all six classes of nutrients (listed above) in each meal: 50% - 60% coming from complex carbohydrates (whole grains, sweet potatoes, etc), 20%-30% protein (lean meats, low-fat dairy, etc), 10%-20%  “good” fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts) and lots of water. We repeat, lots of water!

Proper hydration is extremely important for active individuals, such as people working on jobsites and other physically demanding tasks. Most people don’t get nearly enough water throughout the day and can experience increased blood pressure, heart rate, lethargy, and even dizziness, if completely dehydrated.

If you want more guidelines on how to eat right, stay tuned, we have more insight and articles headed your way, but for now, check out My Plate or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Both plans have a wide range of calorie levels that meet the needs of various age and gender groups.

Bottom line: What you eat impacts how you look, how you feel, how you think, and how you work. Knowing the basics sets you up for success (personally and professionally).

If you liked this article, here are a few more you might enjoy: 

How To Stay Healthy on the Jobsite

6 Tips for Stressed Out Superintendents

Improving the Mental Health of Your Employees


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