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How Can We Promote Healthy Eating in the Workplace?

It’s so easy to grab that bar of chocolate or fizzy drink – especially if you’re at your desk with deadlines looming. Skipping breakfast, lunch-on-the-go, or grabbing that full-fat large latte during the coffee run – we’ve all been guilty of doing it. And while it may not harm once in a while, doing it long-term can have a detrimental effect on your health.

Most people spend a third of their day at work, so it makes sense for companies to make the food and drink choices available in the workplace as healthy as possible. But as the saying goes ‘You can take the horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ Well our 10 corporate wellness experts give us their suggestions for companies to help promote healthy eating in the workplace.

Jill King

There are simple steps that organisations can take to help their employees build better wellbeing habits. Creating a work environment that promotes employee health increases productivity and develops a better corporate culture. Here are a few tips from Dr. David Katz, Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board Member.

  1. Provide and promote wholesome food options
  2. Use a nutrient profiling system to show the range in nutritional quality of foods
  3. Host cooking groups, at a local cooking school, or bring-a-plate to encourage shared engagement in healthy meal preparation.
  4. Order fresh fruit for the office on a regular basis
  5. Send out a daily or weekly healthy eating tip over the company intranet or via email.
  6. Make sure company event catering reinforces healthy eating to show that food can be both delicious and nutritious.

Jill King, Director of International Markets at VirginPulse.

Ruth Tongue

How long have you got? (answers the nutritionist!). No seriously there are some very simple steps that can be taken to encourage healthy eating at work. The one thing I feel so passionate about is encouraging the culture of taking a lunch break. Not only does this mean you’ll eat more mindfully, you’ll also probably be more active and you’ll improve your mood and focus. At Elevate we work with caterers to improve the offerings available in canteens and vending machines but it’s also about improving habits among colleagues – if it’s the norm to bring in cake every time there’s a birthday and order unhealthy platters for every staff meeting it’s going to be tricky for individuals to keep on track. Nutrition challenges such as increasing water intake or making sugar swaps are a good place to start as a little bit of friendly competition always boosts engagement!

Ruth Tongue, Co-founder of Elevate.

Sammy Courtright

Improving people’s diets is probably one of the most difficult behavior changes to promtoes in an office. After all, people are stuck in their ways, and let’s be real: a piece of pizza is often a lot more appealing than a salad by the time lunchtime comes around! However, there are some easy ways to support and encourage healthier eating habits at the office. For example, with the rise of grocery delivery services, you can arrange for a dropoff of a week’s supply of healthy eats, such as fresh fruit, high-protein bars, granola, string cheese, and Greek yogurts. Similarly, if you have sodas in the fridge consider switching them out for naturally flavored sparkling waters. We love LaCroix at Fitspot!

Sammy Courtright, founder and CEO of Fitspot Wellness.

Liz Walker

When we get busy, we often choose the “easiest” option, which isn’t always the healthiest.

Make eating healthy an easy choice for employees. Have grab-and-go fruit options and other healthy quick snack choices will help employees stay healthy while busy. Water stations for a quick refuel will ensure they’re getting the proper hydration they need during the work day. They’ll likely find they have more stamina, too. Enhancing education on healthy eating and its benefits can also create healthy habits. Signposting nutritional information including calorie counts in your breakroom or cafeteria is a good way to start. Beyond that, using training and workshops can help further learnings.

Liz Walker, HR Director, Unum UK.

Nick Patel

For starters, employers should rethink the employee kitchens, especially those that are offering free snacks, and company lunches.  Employees, like most people, often consume based on convenience.  It comes as no surprise that healthier snacks and work lunches can improve the content of food eaten at work.  This does not mean employers need to only offer healthy foods.  For example, Google cut three million calories from employee diets by making candy less visible and harder to get to.  They also offered smaller plates, which helped employees with portion control.

Nick Patel, CEO of Wellable.

Lucy Tallick

This is easier than you think. Healthy eating is about good education and understanding some basic fundamentals. The best thing you can do is offer great advice and education to your teams. There is so much media misunderstanding about nutrition and what people should and shouldn’t be eating and drinking. Healthy eating at work is not about ‘Free Fruit Friday’! It’s about making sure that you supply good healthy snacking with the education that hydration is better than caffeine. We are at work for such a large proportion of our waking hours that if you can create great healthy eating habits at work, this will support a healthier lifestyle and habits outside of work in day to day life.

Lucy Tallick,  Head of Wellbeing at Reward Gateway.

Alaana Linney

Encouraging employees to take a full lunch break away from their desk is a starting point because it will help to avoid reliance on pre-prepared and often unhealthy meals. In meetings, supply fresh fruit instead of cakes and biscuits. If you have a canteen or vending facilities, provide choice by swapping out some unhealthy confectionary, crisps and fizzy drinks in favour of healthier snack bars, low-sugar drinks and dried fruit. Nutritional experts can also provide on-site workshops, educating employees about healthy eating and how to plan and prepare their own meals.

Alaana Linney, Director of Business Development at Nuffield Health.

Joe Gaunt

With any company wide initiative or programme it must start with support from the very top.  Avoid ‘wellness weeks’ in isolation but instead invest and improve access and the promotion of healthy nutrition at all times. Ensure workers also have access to fresh drinking water, as sugary drinks and caffeine can be viewed as just as bad as fatty, unhealthy foods.  Engaging in a platform that offers food advice and education, plus allows for personalisation is a great place to start and also consider group challenges, goals and rewards.

Joe Gaunt, CEO of Hero Wellbeing.

Shaun Bradley

Provide employees with healthy snack alternatives so that they have nutritious food available when temptation hits them. We have a fantastic range of healthy eating resources at Perkbox. We provide fruit, nuts, rice cakes, almond milk, low fat yoghurt and many more. Keep initiatives fresh by adding new options to the mix so that employees don’t get bored. Listen to their requests; they will love you for it. Another great tip that works wonders for us is to encourage employees to share their recipes for meals they have created using ingredients available from our kitchen. They post these on our internal social media platform and others feel inspired to copy and/or design their own too.

Shaun Bradley, Director of People at Perkbox.

Sam Fromson

Buy-in is critical.  Start by telling your people about your commitment to healthy eating.  Education is next.  Use the resources provided by campaigns like Change 4 Life to educate your people.  Discourage eating at desks by encouraging lunch breaks.  If you can, provide space for your people to socialise and re-energise over lunch.  Hydration is critical so make sure your people drink their 8 glasses of water a day.  If you have a canteen or vending machines make sure they include healthy options.  Finally, if you can run to it give your people fresh fruit once or twice a week.

Sam Fromson, Co-founder of Yulife.

By Ushma Mistry

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