Promoting healthy eating in the workplace

How to promote healthy eating and nutrition in the workplace

Encouraging healthy eating in the workplace is becoming commonplace in most companies of all sizes. There are several reasons for this, not least of all because of the direct correlation between healthy eating and the general health, wellbeing and productivity of an individual. While it’s important not to implement a regimental approach to promoting nutrition at work, it can be done in a way that is tailored to everyone’s needs and requirements and encourages a positive interest in healthy eating among workers.

Tailored approach

As with any aspect to a workplace wellbeing programme, it’s important to approach the subject of nutrition with an approach that considers preferences, allergies, special dietary needs and ethical food choices.

Before you start making changes or introducing an element of nutrition to your programme, talk to employees in your company about their food choices, if they feel they need to eat healthier, or if they want to learn about certain aspects of nutrition. This can give you invaluable insight into what employees are thinking about when it comes to nutrition, which will better inform your strategy around the topic.

It may also be advisable to have a day of health screenings to help employees understand the areas of their health that may need extra attention.

Healthy options in the workplace

A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management reveals that in an ideal situation, organisations give their employees, ‘what they want and need- a wide array of food options’. It is important to remember that in the process of promoting healthy food and beverage options at the workplace, HR professionals do not act like the ‘food police’.

So, whether it be the company canteen, vending machines or snacks at meetings, you might be able to increase the number of healthy food options without taking away the other existing options. This way, employees don’t feel as though they are being controlled but rather will notice the well-intentioned efforts of the company to promote proper diet and nutrition. At the end of the day, it’s up to the employee to decide what they want to eat.

Fad free zone

Society is moving away from a fixation with fad diets. With much of your workforce most likely being comprised of Millennials and Gen-Xers, if European stats are considered, you’re dealing with a group of people who have been sold and encouraged to take part in fad diets for most of their lives. From Slim Fast in the 1980s, anti-carb diets in the 2000s and paleo and detox diets in the 2010s. It should come as no surprise to learn that 50% of the population has tried a fad diet while considerably more have felt pressurised to do so.

As an employer, the information you provide to employees should be factual and scientifically founded, without personal agenda, and ideally delivered by a certified professional to avoid promotion of a fad-diet culture in the workplace. The focus should be on a balanced diet and a positive attitude towards, and relationship with, food.

Nutrition education for employees

The 2017 Food & Health Survey revealed that 80% of Americans are confused about which foods to avoid and which to eat. Given the mixed information we get from the world of fad diets, this isn’t a shocking statistic.

Perhaps employees are eager to eat healthy but are unsure of the right way to do it without being restrictive. There are many ways to educate employees on making the right choices for them when it comes to healthy eating. These can include:

  • Inviting a dietician or nutritionist to conduct an on-site seminar that matches the interests of employees
  • Providing content developed by experts
  • Providing discounted consultations with nutritionists
  • Setting up a nutrition consultation clinic for a day in your workplace
  • Set up a recipe of the week initiative

Remember, the goal is to educate employees not just on healthy eating in the workplace, but also at home, so this should be part of a comprehensive programme.

Care and consideration

Food and nutrition can be a sensitive topic for a lot of people. It’s been reported that 13.5% of adults have lived with a diagnosed eating disorder, including non-specified eating disorders- not that this doesn’t include undiagnosed people. While you may not be aware of whether there are people with a difficult relationship with food among employees at your company, the possibility should be considered. This relates back to not putting a “food police” mentality into play, while also avoiding potentially damaging or triggering promotion of fads.