Healthy eating in the workplace

FAQs
February 24, 2017
Community Cooking
October 22, 2019

One of the biggest public health issues of the 21st century is the well-being of the UK workforce.

Health programs in the workplace are now a bottom-line issue for employers and becoming more commonplace. As fewer people work longer hours, a supportive work culture is essential to help employees make wise food choices and influence long-term health and wellness.  Healthy eating, as part of an active lifestyle, combined with a positive outlook can lead to benefits such as:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer
  • Elevated mood, energy and self-esteem
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Opportunities to spend enjoyable time with family and friends.
  • From the employer’s perspective this is always good news for business – a healthy and happy employee will lead to improved productivity and reduced absenteeism

Taking responsibility

Whilst an organisation will generally take the lead, it seems sensible that employees should also take responsibility for their individual healthy habits.  Health can be improved by small changes or “nudges”.

It’s voluntary

No matter how much planning is done to make people aware, healthy eating programs are voluntary – not everyone will join in or be interested.  It’s important that employees are surveyed to help decide what types of programs to offer.

  • Why are people interested in a healthy eating program? Are they looking for general nutrition information, or more specific programs such as heart health?
  • What types of programs have been offered in the past? Which programs worked, which did not?
  • When will the programs be offered…..seasonal, or throughout the year?
  • Looking at the big picture

If a healthy eating program is offered in the workplace, how does the workplace environment itself influences the eating patterns of the employees? For example:

Where do the employees eat their lunch? A safe and clean eating area is a requirement under most occupational health and safety laws. Is sufficient time allowed during breaks to encourage good habits?

What items are offered at vending machines and staff cafeterias? Hopefully healthy alternatives such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

Does the workplace support healthy eating programs by providing time for employees to go to information sessions? Even better if it extends to specialist dietitian and nutritionist services.

Topics to include in a workplace healthy eating program – some suggestions

  • Understanding the basics of a healthy balanced diet
  • Weight management and body image
  • Fad diets
  • Fats and cholesterol
  • Salt reduction
  • Planning balanced meals for the whole family
  • Ageing well
  • Making smart choices while grocery shopping and reading food labels
  • Programs for specific health conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart conditions, etc.)
  • Healthy eating on the run
  • Vegetarian eating

Giving feedback

Regularly reviewing the meals and menus within company catering ensures that employees get healthy and nutritious options that they enjoy. A good way of ensuring this happens is to have health champions from across the company who will take the lead on engaging with well-being activities.

Where can I get more information on workplace wellbeing?

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) supports healthier working through dietitian-led wellness programmes. More details of the BDA ‘Work Ready’ Programme can be found at:
http://www.bdaworkready.co.uk/

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