Got the nibbles? Before you reach for that snack, read on.
As you’ll learn in this post, healthy eating is about more than what you eat. It’s also about how you eat. And how you eat is directly tied to how you think, feel, and perform in daily life.
Although it can be difficult to put healthy eating first in a busy workplace, it is critically important—both for your employees and for your bottom line.
Today, we’ll share four simple ways you can promote healthy eating at work.
Note: This blog was originally published February 12, 2019. It has been updated for concision and clarity.
What Does Healthy Eating Actually Mean?
The latest Canada Food Guide introduced a major shift away from counting calories and portion sizes. Instead, it focused on building habits that encourage nutritious eating every day.
The new guide also recommends cooking more often, dining with others, being mindful of our eating habits, and enjoying our food.
How Your Employees' Eating Habits Affect Your Bottom Line
Nutrition and Work Performance
You know what they say: “You are what you eat.” Nothing could be truer, especially at the office. Studies have shown that consuming an overabundance of carbohydrates can seriously lower workplace productivity.
The same is true when employees don’t get enough fruits and vegetables. Those who rarely eat greens and other low-fat foods are 93 percent more likely to be less efficient on the job.
That’s because our diet directly impacts our circadian rhythms, our body’s system for regulating sleep. When your dietary habits aren’t aligned with your circadian rhythms, you feel unproductive in your waking hours and have trouble falling asleep at night. This can in turn affect your performance the following day.
Diet and Chronic Disease
Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and osteoporosis are some of the most common chronic health conditions affected by nutrition. Of all of these, obesity is one of the most damaging. Individuals with excess weight often struggle to consistently eat a balanced diet, exacerbating the problem further.
Chronic health problems not only hurt the individual, they also affect those around them. In the workplace, these conditions are directly linked to increasing disability claims and absenteeism.
To learn more about how chronic conditions affect your workplace, check out: What are the Costs of Chronic Disease in the Workplace?
Luckily, most of these issues can be prevented by adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle. Let’s take a look at how you can encourage healthy eating habits at work.
4 Ways Employers Can Help Promote Healthy Eating
1. Make Healthy Eating a Habit for Employees
To some employees, nutritious eating can sound like a chore. It may even take the joy out of mealtimes altogether! But it doesn’t need to be this way.
You can help staff make the switch to a more nutritious diet by making wellness a part of your work culture, and introducing some fun activities at work. Your first step? Create an employee-lead health and wellness committee to help with the planning.
Not only will this take some of the organizational pressure off of you, it will also lead to a more engaged workforce.
Examples of healthy eating initiatives in the workplace include:
- Evaluating any current health and wellness programs or policies that are active in the workplace
- Assessing your team’s health needs, goals, and preferences
- Developing a company vision statement, goals and objectives around healthy eating
- Assisting in implementing, monitoring and evaluating wellness activities.
Once the committee is in place, they can come up with fun ideas to promote healthy eating such as:
- 8-week healthy snack challenge: Incentivize nutritious habits with some “healthy” competition. No chocolate or chips!
- Weekly challenge themes such as eating more fruits and vegetables, choosing healthier drinks, or avoiding processed foods
- Healthy eating scoreboard: Award your healthiest employees publicly. Up the ante by offering some (nutritious) prizes.
2. Encourage Employees to Eat Together
30 percent of Canadians say it’s challenging to find the time to eat with others. Although it can be hard to fit communal mealtimes into our hectic schedules, it’s worth the effort. Adults who dine together tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, consume less pop and fast food, and have lower body mass indexes.
Promoting healthy eating in the workplace can start with small changes. Don’t let employees eat at their desks! Instead, adjust your lunch break policy and designate a comfortable area for staff to enjoy their meals. Lunch-and-learn sessions are another great way to encourage teams to eat together.
3. Implement an Employee Wellness Program
Wellness programs are specially designed to help employees with high-risk factors make the lifestyle changes needed to improve their quality of life and reduce their health care costs. They also help employees with fewer risk factors stay healthy and happy.
Introducing a workplace wellness program can make a huge difference for your employees—and your organization. Depending on your budget and your team’s needs, programs can be customized to include a variety of activities, such as:
- Cooking classes for easy-to-make recipes
- Workshops with local nutrition experts
- Health risk assessments and screenings
- Monthly healthy eating clubs (these can involve anything from nutritious recipe exchanges to healthy potlucks to local farmers market visits).
4. Provide Extended Health Benefits With Great Habit Tracking Tools
Providing extended health benefits is another way to promote healthy eating in your workplace. Some health insurers are piloting online tools that allow employees to take control of their own health, including Green Shield Canada’s Change4Life Portal and Manulife’s Vitality program. Each has a unique way to help employees track their routine activities and eating habits.
Encouraging employees to use these resources will help them track their health progress, so they can better achieve their health goals.
At first glance, introducing healthy eating habits at work can seem impossible. But with a few simple changes, you can make a world of difference—both for your staff and for your bottom line.
So what are you waiting for? Tuck in!
Ready to learn more about how employee wellness is good for business? Download our free guide below.