How To Design Your Home For Healthy Eating
Healthy eating in our homes and workplaces can be very much affected by the interior environment; in this blog we hope to give some practical ideas of positive changes that can be made to encourage us all to pursue healthy eating.
Healthy eating practices and positive food culture are enormously important for us all as individuals as well as for whole populations; worldwide more than 1.9 billion (39%) of adults were overweight in 2014, of which 600 million were obese, making obesity a global pandemic. Obesity and poor diets increase cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer and lack of fruit and vegetable intake is one of top 10 risk factors for global mortality.
Modern life in developed countries is not ideal for healthy eating with increased snacking, fast food on the go and larger portions all the norm; foods with poor nutritional values are often easily available and positively encouraged by advertising often aimed at teens and children, setting up poor eating choices from an early age.
Despite this negative picture as organizations and individuals we can all make positive changes to encourage better eating habits by maximizing the availability of fruit and vegetables, reducing the intake of calories, red meat, sugary and highly processed foods and drinks. The WELL Building Standard recognizes this and leads the way in seeking to implement design strategies and policies to alter the behavior of the people who live and work in WELL environments, here are some of the ideas we think can help us all to reevaluate our eating habits.
Safe Food Preparation Materials
Surfaces that come into contact with our food can be a source of harmful contamination; this can be from leaching of chemicals from non-stick cookware or toxins in porous surfaces. BPA or bisphenol-A is a chemical used in many plastic items such as storage containers and drinking bottles that can leach into our food when exposed to heat or UV light. The effects of BPA have been shown to have extremely negative health consequences and as a consequence the cooking and preparation utensils we use in our homes such as pots and pans should be restricted to the following inert materials:
- Ceramics, except those containing lead
- Cast iron
- Stainless steel
- Coated aluminum
- Solid (non-laminated) wood that is untreated or treated with food-grade mineral or linseed oil
Similarly all old cutting surfaces should be replaced to fit the following guidelines, particularly if they have deep cutting marks in them that can harbor germs:
Solid (non-laminated) wood that is untreated or treated with food-grade mineral or linseed oil
Have you ever thought ‘this serving looks huge, I’ll never eat it all!’ then managed to finish every bit of it? If we’re served more we tend to eat more, leading to overconsumption, which over time can lead to the negative health effects of weight gain. There are some simple things we can do to change this; one is to use smaller plates, specifically plates with a diameter no larger than 25cm or with the surface area of 507 cm sq, bowls and cups should be no larger than 473 ml capacity. In addition, smaller portion sizes of less than 650 calories (particularly when provided or sold on a daily basis in restaurants or food outlets) should be offered as an alternative main course portion and should be sold at a lower cost accordingly.
Gardening and producing your own fruit or vegetables is a great way to provide healthy and nutritious food for you and your family and engages those involved with the production of food, improving awareness and leading to healthier eating habits. Ideally gardening space of no less than 0.1m sq should be provided for WELL building occupants and should have one or a combination of the following:
a) A garden with food-bearing plants
b) A greenhouse with food-bearing plants
c ) Edible landscaping (e.g. fruit trees, herbs)
In addition, those living in a WELL building apartment should be supplied with items to support any planting efforts including planting medium, irrigation, lighting (interior spaces only), plants and gardening tools.
Of course gardens are not possible for all of us so indoor gardens are a great alternative to improve healthy eating at home AND sustainability. Growing micro-greens and herbs at home not only provides you with fresh, healthy produce packed with flavor and nutrition whenever you need it you can also be sure that the greens you grow are organic, free of pesticides and non-GMO. Our suggestions to get you started with indoor gardening are the Urban Cultivator and the Bioset germinator by Johnny Seeds or see our previous blog on micro greens here.
Fresh Sprouts for salad using Bioset Germinator by Johnny Seeds
Taking time out to focus on eating can lead to more control of how much we are consuming and can avoid the over-eating that can happen when we are isolated, distracted by television or radio or eating at a workstation. Communal eating spaces in the workplace to accommodate at least 25% of employees at any one time can increase engagement with mealtimes and more focus on intake whilst increasing sociability and reducing stress.
Workplaces can also take the lead in healthier attitudes to eating by providing good amenities for employees in break spaces. The WELL Building Standard suggests the following:
Refrigerator, device for reheating food (such as steamer or toaster oven), and sink
Amenities for dish washing
At least one cabinet or storage unit available for employee use
Eating utensils, including spoons, forks, knives and microwave safe plates and cups
Refined Ingredient Restrictions
Highly processed foods contain high levels of ingredients that are bad for us, particularly sugar, calories and fats, all of which, when consumed regularly can lead to negative heath implications such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
The WELL Building Standard encourages ingredient restrictions on foods being sold on WELL building premises, including vending machines in apartment blocks. For example, drinks should contain no more than 30g of sugar and at least 50% of beverages should have 1g of sugar or less per 16ml. Food items should have no more than 30g of sugar per item and whole grain should make up half the ingredients of any food where grain flour is the main ingredient. In addition any food served in a premises on a daily basis should not contain trans fats (partially-hydrogenated oil).
Food allergies affect 8% of children and 4% of adults in the US and there are similar figures around the globe. Serious allergic reactions can be fatal and therefore helping those with allergies to identify the foods they’re unable to eat by clearly labeling packaging and using menus or signage to indicate allergens is essential. The foodstuffs that should be identified are peanuts, fish, shellfish, soy, milk and dairy products, egg, wheat, tree nuts and gluten.
Safe Food Storage
Some simple food storage and preparation safety rules can be adapted in our homes to ensure that contamination between raw meats such as poultry and fish and other foods does not occur. This can help avoid gastrointestinal problems that can happen when microorganisms from these foods contaminate other areas.
Raw fish and poultry should be stored in removable, cleanable drawers or containers within cold storage spaces and temperatures should be visible at all times to ensure that the appropriate temperature is being maintained. In addition where uncooked meat is prepared it should have a separate preparation area with designated cutting boards that are not interchangeable with boards used for ready to eat foodstuffs.
Many marketing and advertising strategies are designed to encourage the consumption of unhealthy food; therefore it is important to limit the influence advertisers have on us to make poor nutritional choices. Preventing the advertising of any items that do not conform to the concept of acceptable processed foods as laid down by The WELL Building standard is one way to limit the cues for unhealthy food.
In spaces where food is served positive reinforcement of good eating habits through posters and other visual media can be used to influence food choices too; they can be designed to promote healthy eating with the aim to discourage sugary or highly processed foods and encourage whole and natural foods. This can be done with menu signage too, for instance prompting a healthy eating option on entering the dining area and again at the time of making menu choices.
Making a choice to be more mindful of the types of foods we eat and how we prepare and store them can have an extremely positive impact on our long-term health and wellbeing. The WELL Building Standard expands on these concepts and ideas in their comprehensive section on nourishment and if you would like to know more about how Liquid Interiors can help you to design and create a WELL home or workplace please contact us for more information.
Feel free to contact Liquid Interiors, your healthy and eco conscious interior design consultants.