Promoting healthy eating at work

Thursday 22nd November 2018

Employers will be increasingly familiar with initiatives aimed at increasing workplace well-being, with issues like stress being taken far more seriously than they were in the past. But that does not mean the most familiar health issues have gone away.

The truth is that the human body is not designed either for over consumption or sitting down all day, and while there is only so much that can be done about the latter – even if your company offers subsidised gym memberships, not all will take them up – there is much that can be done to influence what people eat.

Alternatives to cake

Promoting healthy eating has a myriad of benefits. It’s not just about weight control, healthy eating leads to a healthy workforce.

There are many steps that can be taken by a workplace, and it is important to be consistent with them.

A great idea is to provide fruit as an alternative to sweet treats such as cake and chocolates. Everyone has heard about the need to have ‘five a day’, but few people manage five portions of fruit and veg in 24 hours. However, a complimentary fruit bowl could make a big difference. Make sure someone is always in charge of it, that anything going off is disposed of quickly and that those responsible ensure the fruit provided consists of the things people like.

Breakfast bonanza

It is also a good idea to equip the office kitchen with the equipment needed to promote healthier food. For instance, breakfast bowls can give people the option to enjoy healthy cereal when they arrive instead of a fry up at home, while a stove on which fresh ingredients can be boiled in a pan offers a healthier alternative than a microwaved ready meal with lots of additives.

The healthy food principle could even be extended to office parties. Once again, healthier options could be provided instead of the usual fries and burgers that are so often dished up.

At the same time, it is also wise to cut out unhealthy snacks. Could you offer something different to packets of chocolate biscuits for meetings, or something healthier than pizzas on occasions where, for example, people might have to work late to complete a project? This doesn’t mean banning pizza, but offer a choice: bring in a platter of lean meats such as (un-fried) chicken, low-fat hummus and vegetables to dip such as celery and carrot sticks.

Don’t push it too far

Talking of carrot sticks, it is important to remember this should be about carrots and not sticks! Don’t go as far as banning people eating sweets, or bringing in a birthday cake, because that approach can breed resentment. Instead of embracing healthy eating, you may find the plan backfires as staff start munching on sweet treats in secret.

Some workplaces do go further than others when it comes to food. For example, Forest Green Rovers Football Club, which is owned by a green energy entrepreneur, has a policy of imposing vegan diets for all its players (as well as the food on offer to fans on match days). In most companies, however, this kind of step would not be appropriate and should be avoided, it would make some staff feel pressurised and judged over their diet.

Instead, the focus on healthy food in the office should simply be a chance to help improve the overall diets of staff, who can choose whether to embrace this or not. The effects should still be beneficial, leading to a healthier and happier workforce.


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