Why should a workplace be concerned about healthy eating?
When a workplace can help employees to make wise food choices, as part of a workplace health program, it can influence the person’s long-term health and wellness.
Together - healthy eating and active living - combined with a positive outlook can lead to:
- 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.
How do you start a 'healthy eating' program?
While it's most important for an employer to provide a safe and healthy workplace, it's also important to encourage healthy lifestyles among their employees. Healthy eating programs can be an important step. They can bring lots of people together to learn how to improve their health both at work and at home. As always, these programs should be part of a complete workplace health program and should not take resources or attention away from workplace hazards that may be present.
Before you start:
No matter how much you plan or make people aware, healthy eating programs are voluntary - not everyone will join or be interested. Survey employees to help you decide what types and levels of programs to offer.
When planning a health program, be sure you know the interests of your audience. In this case:
-Know why people are interested in a healthy eating program. Are participants looking for general nutrition information, or more specific programs such as heart health?
-Be sure to consider what types of programs have been offered in the past. Which programs worked? Which did not?
-Know exactly who your target audience is.
-Plan when will the program be offered (seasonal, or all year).
-Identify who people can go to if they have individual questions or want more help.
What should a healthy eating program focus on?
Workplaces that are going to start a healthy eating program should focus on the main messages from the food guides. They should also make sure that wherever their employees get their food - whether its vending machines, canteens, or cafeterias - that these venues should offer some healthier food choices.
-Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.
-Choose vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.
-Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.
-Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.
-Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar or salt.
-Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk each day.
-Select lower fat milk alternatives.
-Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils, and tofu often.
-Eat at least two food guide servings of fish each week.
-Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.
-Be active every day.
-Satisfy your thirst with water.
What are sample topics for a workplace healthy eating program?
When offering nutrition information at the workplace, be sure to offer a wide range of options. Topics for programs may include:
-Understanding the basics.
-Weight management and body image.
-Fats and cholesterol.
-Planning balanced meals for the whole family.
-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.
Some more specific options for a workplace healthy eating program are:
-Offer material for employees to take home to help them make healthier choices when planning meals. For example:
-Provide a sample shopping list and a plan for the week's meals you can make from that list.
-Have handouts of a food guide.
-Provide information about how to make healthier food choices when shopping, ordering in restaurants, etc.
-Teach people how to read and understand food labels.
-Provide cooking tips for making healthy foods.
-Post a list of local restaurants that offer balanced food menus, dietary options, and dietary information such as calories per portion.
-Invite a speaker to a 'lunch-n-learn' session.
-Have "theme" weeks or months.
Stock vending machines with healthier options.
-Arrange for the on-site cafeteria to offer a range of healthy food choices.
-Have a refrigerator and microwave at work so people can bring healthy lunches from home.
-When lunches or drinks are provided at meetings, be sure to provide healthy choices.
-Arrange for a group to go to a weight management program together, or have the program come to your office at a convenient time.
-Give people a way to share healthy recipes with each other by using Intranet, e-mail, or posters.
-Provide information about how to use low-fat ingredients in favourite recipes.
-Organize a potluck lunch at work featuring healthy food choices. Try a multicultural day.
-Offer incentives, if people are interested.
-Offer a new tip or goal for each week, such as:
-I will eat 7 fruits or vegetables each day.
-I will eat breakfast every morning.
-I will have an extra piece of fruit every day.
Does the workplace influence how people eat?
Yes. Always remember that the workplace environment influences the health of its employees. For example, if a healthy eating program is offered, remember to look at where the employees eat their lunch. A safe and clean eating area is a requirement under most occupational health and safety laws. Beyond this, it is important to look at what is offered at vending machines and staff cafeterias. If you don't look at the larger picture to see how the workplace itself influences the eating patterns of the employees, the program will not work as well as it could.
Be sure the workplace supports healthy eating programs by providing time for employees to go to information sessions, offering appropriate foods in the cafeteria and vending machines, and by providing refrigerators and microwaves so that meals can be stored and prepared appropriately.
What are some tips for snacks to keep at work?