The foods you choose make a difference to overall health and wellness. As National Nutrition Month comes to a close, we wanted to share how employers can support better eating habits in their employees.
Why does it matter? Because right now, the typical American diet is high in saturated fats, partially-hydrogenated oils, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Combine this with the average sedentary lifestyle, large portion sizes and high stress and you’ve created a scenario ideal for the start of chronic diseases. In addition, over one-third of Americans are considered obese, and obesity increases the chances for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and certain cancers.
Many people blame hectic schedules and work pressures for their poor food choices – “I just don’t have time to make good meals.” Since most people spend more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else, employers can be incredibly effective champions of new habits. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider:
- Food Swap – For easiest implementation, keep group sizes manageable, perhaps 5 or six individuals. Assign different days to each group member when they are responsible for planning and preparing a healthy lunch menu. This can be done just once per week or every day, and you can also add some interest by assigning a type of meal or certain theme. For example, Monday could be healthy salad day; Tuesday hearty soup etc. Or have Mexican one day, Italian another. The idea is to explore healthy food choices in a fun way while also building comradery.
- Meal Prep Classes – Invite a dietician to come into the office to share simple meal ideas and ways to prep a week’s worth of meals in advance to make healthy eating so much easier.
- Healthy Snack Desk Drop – Create a healthy snack station and stock it with power bars, fruit, vegetables or other healthy options. Add educational material/signage that educates employs about nutrition guidelines (i.e. how much protein/sugar/vitamin C/healthy carbs, etc. the average person should have in their diet per day).
- Fresh Fruit Fridays – Support your local farmers’ market or buy fruit in bulk. People tend to snack on what’s convenient, so make it easy to have a healthy grab-and-go item. Consider swapping out fresh fruit for those bagels and pastries that are so common in meetings too.
- Subsidize Healthy On-Site Options – If you have an on-site café or vending machines, work with the supplier to highlight healthier options and make them cheaper than processed choices. For anyone interested in upgrading their available foodservice selections, MJ can share contact information for healthier vending suppliers.
- Launch a Nutrition Challenge – Use technology to push habit changes with the office winner receiving a prize or all participants receiving an incentive. A platform such as Daily Endorphin can help track individual employee performance or each person can send in screenshots of their progress using an app such as Award points for each day goals are maintained. Be sure to have everyone write down their starting weight as well, so even those who don’t win an award still realize the significance of their efforts.
- Water. Water. – Drinking of water is essential to overall health and also helps cut down on consumption of empty calories by keeping you full in between meals and snacks. Make sure water coolers are easily accessible and provide employees insulated drinking bottles with your logo.