March signals the start of spring: an ideal time to help employees eat better. As your team begins booking beach vacations and planning trips to summer cabins, they often find new motivation to improve their eating habits. Their healthy eating habits can have positive effects in the workplace, too. Employees with a healthier diet have an improved mood and higher functioning.
So how can you help your employees hit their goals?
When it comes to achieving what we want, human behavioural economics teaches us what works—and what doesn’t. The initial rush of pure motivation isn’t always enough to have a lasting effect on employee’s behaviours. Instead, a robust web of small goals and motivations is what’ll keep them on the right track.
This blog explores the variety of ways you can empower your employees to reach their healthy eating goals, both in overall goal setting and daily tips for healthy eating.
How-To Set and Achieve Healthy Eating Goals
Choose an End Goal
Before employees begin on the path towards healthier eating, encourage them to write down their end goal as clearly as possible. The small goals employees establish for themselves must align with a larger goal. And the more specific the overall goal is, the more likely they’ll be to stay motivated.
The goal your employees set should be the one they deem most important. If it’s not, they risk either being insufficiently motivated or trying to reach too many end points at once, scattering their focus and guaranteeing that nothing substantial changes.
Once the main goal has been established, employees can break it down into small steps where they’ll make daily, incremental progress.
Hold Yourself Accountable (with the help of others)
The time-crunch of a deadline has continuously been proven as one of the best motivators. Even self-imposed deadlines can be effective in the achieving of tasks. However, a self-imposed deadline that nobody knows about is less effective as it can pass by without any external consequence.
By making their goals public—by telling a friend, co-worker, or family member—employees will feel the responsibility and accountability that comes with an external deadline. For those who really want to feel the pressure, making a small wager (as low as dollar) substantially increases the likelihood of success.
In the middle of working towards a goal, it can be hard to pull back and notice all we’ve already achieved along the way. Finding a concrete and visual way to chart progress is a great way to keep motivation high, even on difficult days.
The key is to find an easy way to see the goal becoming reality. This may involve a tracking app, an old fashioned hand-written chart, a jar with colourful balls, or a piggy bank. The form will lend itself to the objective.
Enjoy the Process
Eating healthier doesn’t require the renouncement of all snacks and treats. Dinners need not consist entirely of broccoli and spinach. There is a middle ground where employees can work towards their goals in a way they look forward to.
Rarely do people achieve goals when they do not enjoy the process that leads to its attainment. Harvard Business Review on the difference between people who achieve goals and those who do not, found that the best predictor for whether someone achieved their goal was how much they enjoyed the process.
Steps to Eating Better
Too often we either eat without thinking, go too long without eating or get busy at work and grab something quick but unhealthy. The common theme between these instances is that we’re often eating impulsively, with little to no planning or schedule.
Eat Regularly throughout the day
We shouldn’t wait until we’re starving to eat. Instead, we should avoid skipping meals and eat nutritious snacks such as fresh fruit, multigrain crackers, or nuts. Encourage employees to keep nutritious snacks on hand in case they need to wait a little longer than planned between meals. Or If budget allows, consider stocking the break room so something is always available.
Drink Water to reduce Appetite
Keep a reusable water bottle or large glass filled at their desks. Though a vending machine soda may sound tempting, staying hydrated combats fatigue, helps maintain attention, and reduces the chances of overeating. It’ll also reduce overall sugar intake, keeping us feeling sharp throughout the day.
Stop when you’re almost full
Our brain lags behind our stomach. We all know that uncomfortable sensation of eating too much and feeling stuffed. This happens when we eat too quickly or keep eating after our body tells us it's time to stop (no matter how good it tastes!) By stopping a few bites before we’re full, we reduce our chances of overeating.
Eat with others
When we eat with others, we schedule a time to eat and eat more slowly as we make conversation. This allows our brain to catch-up to our stomach and helps prevent overeating. Eating together also gives us a true break in the day, allowing us to return to work more refreshed and productive.
Incorporating More Nutritious Foods
Try adding more fruits and vegetables
Canada’s Food Guide recommends that we fill half our plate with fruits and vegetables. Some easy ways to help your employees increase their veggie intake are:
- Go vegetarian one (or more) meals per week.
- Substitute black beans or pinto beans for ground meat in tacos and burritos
- Snack on edamame with garlic and chili flakes or roasted chickpeas
- Instead of milk, try adding yogurt and fruit to your morning cereal
- Use avocado instead of mayonnaise in your favourite sandwich
Cook more, Take-out less
At the end of a long day, it’s very tempting to pay someone else to cook on our behalf. But with a little planning, making meals at home can be easy (and your wallet will thank you!)
To combat temptation, batch cook larger portions of favourite meals and freeze the leftovers. Develop a repertoire of healthy, quick meals and make sure the pantry and fridge are stocked with the necessary ingredients,
Meal kits are another great way to cook at home without the hassle of shopping and prepping. More importantly, the majority of the choices are easy to make and full of nutritious ingredients.
Skip the Soda
In 2018, Canadians consumed an average of 58 litres of soft drinks per person. This is approximately ⅓ of the amount consumed by our American cousins. While consumption of soft drinks has been on a steady decline in Canada over the last decade, drinking soda—diet or not—contributes to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay. Substitute water infused with citrus, unsweetened tea, fresh fruit and veggie juice instead. Or add bubbles by purchasing a soda stream for the office.
Eat nuts and seeds
Consumed in moderation due to their high calorie count, nuts pack a powerful protein punch and are full of healthy fats. Provided no team members suffer from nut allergies, employees can snack on a packet of almonds, cashews, or pumpkin seeds as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Avoid “Fat-Free” Foods
There are good fats and bad fats. Encourage employees to avoid saturated fats found in processed foods, which contribute to the bad kind of cholesterol. But equally important, make staff aware that good fats such as the ones found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts form an important part of a nutritious diet.
Without fat, our bodies cannot absorb many of the vitamins and minerals that it needs. For example, whole milk allows our bodies to absorb more calcium per ounce than skim milk. In addition, many foods that are labeled fat-free include preservatives and more sugar than their regular fat counterparts.
Putting it all together
Encourage employees to choose one goal, share it with others, track their progress, and reward themselves. Nothing breeds success like success. Small steps that improve how and what your team eats will result in better health, higher productivity, and lower healthcare costs.