Nutrition plays a leading role in the fight against chronic disease. Good nutrition provides more energy, boosts mental power, raises immunity, and helps people live longer. As the saying goes, “we are what we eat.” Because of this, nutrition should be an integral part of any corporate wellness program.
As with virtually all areas of corporate wellness, there is no one cookie-cutter recipe to positively influence behavior change in an office made up of individuals. These individuals go home at the end of their work day/night, and their diets are influenced by others and countless variables. However, if employers do an effective job of improving employee nutrition during their “on-time,” the healthy habits will make their way into employee “off-time.”
What happens when healthy eating spills into employee off-time? Families start to eat healthier. They cook healthier for their friends, who cook healthier for other friends—and the nutrition of the community improves. Healthy employees don’t just lead to healthy companies, they also lead to healthy communities.
So, how can employers encourage good nutrition?
Engage an Expert.
We invite a certified Nutritionist, Sara Sullivan, to come to our office and provide educational lunch meetings. As a certified Nutrition Counselor/Holistic Health Practitioner, with an additional certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University, Sara provides top-notch guidance about on food choices. Sara’s qualifications are second only to her passion, which is truly contagious.
Recently Sara has focused, one-at-a-time, on each of the meals of the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. By breaking up the focus this way, it allows employees to examine why they make certain food choices. The casual atmosphere and Sara’s nonjudgmental style encourage employees to speak up and ask questions. Not surprisingly, many employees are facing the same nutritional challenges, and their questions lead to dialogue that provides support and leads to new ideas for the group as a whole.
Each time Sara comes to our office, she provides a few samples and recipes. Of course, the samples encourage participation! Sara’s samples prove, unequivocally, that healthy food can be delicious. It’s been fun to try new things as a group. Everyone is always excited to make the recipes at home and provide feedback. As a result, each session begins with a lively discussion of personal experiences and new tips on how to make the recipes.
Overall, our employees have loved this nutritional series. We have been delighted to hear numerous reports of “feeling better” or “having more energy” after employees changed their diets by utilizing Sara’s suggestions.
Company-provided food should always be healthy, even if it is for celebrations. Succumbing to unhealthy choices, in the name of celebration, implies that healthy food can’t be good, too. This just isn’t true. We have found that fresh fruit is a big hit for morning meetings. But an even bigger hit? Our late morning smoothie bar! Incorporating healthy choices helps set the tone for a healthy atmosphere.
Make Food Fun.
Some pieces of corporate wellness should be casual and cloaked with fun! Engaging employees in buying and cooking healthy food will facilitate healthy eating at home. These are a few ways we make food fun in our office:
- Monthly Potluck Salad Bars
Our office has monthly potluck salad bars with various themes to spice them up. This Friday, for example, we will have a Super Bowl theme and employees are bringing in healthy salad bar items and snacks. While partaking in the festivities, employees will wear football jerseys of their favorite teams.
- Cooking Competitions
Our office staff tends to be competitive, so cooking competitions are right up their alley! Healthy soup, chili, desserts…there is no end to the possibilities!
Provide an Endless Supply of High Quality Drinking Water
Hands down, water is the best choice for quenching thirst. There are no calories so it’s the perfect choice to keep on the desk all day long. By sipping water all day, employees are less likely to snack excessively. Every system in the human body relies on water to keep it functioning optimally, and even mild dehydration can make a person feel fatigued or less alert. Our company provides all employees with personalized, branded water bottles and we have a centrally located water filling station. It’s rare to see an employee without a water bottle in his or her hand!
Finally, employers should take a look around the office. Do employees have access to a refrigerator to keep a healthy lunch fresh? Is there a vending machine with unhealthy food to tempt employees? Are employees encouraged to take a break for lunch, so they can eat slowly and make thoughtful choices? Do employees have a nice place to eat, away from their desk?
The CDC reports that 38% of U.S. adults say they eat fruit less than once a day and 23% of U.S. adults say that they eat vegetables less than once a day. Since employees often spend more of their waking hours at work than at home, employers are poised to directly improve this statistic, while improving the health of their employees.