Help Employees Make Healthy Food Choices
Ariel MulchanModeratorJuly 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm
Six Ways Employers Help Employees Make Healthy Food Choices
A Whitepaper From Judith Winfrey – President, PeachDish
Healthier employees are happier employees. They’re happier at home and at work. There is less conflict in the workplace and more harmony among happy employees, who are also more engaged in their community.
This matters to employers, for many reasons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that improvements in worker health don’t just cut down on absenteeism or training costs to replace sick employees. Good health also leads to better worker stamina and concentration, which leads to greater work output. Happier, more engaged employees are more productive employees, and their contributions and productivity are more effective and relevant.
Those same employees represent their company better to customers and stakeholders. They make their company stronger in the market. Healthy, happy, engaged employees are not just more productive and effective, but they also help elevate the health and wellness of those around them – which, over time, multiples the overall health of other employees AND their company.
There are many aspects of health, but it all starts with food. Food is the foundation of health. We’ve all heard the adage, “You are what you eat.” Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini says it this way: “Food is the only thing you will ever buy that literally becomes who you are.” What you choose to eat becomes your body, your muscles, your bones, your senses, your nervous system, your brain. Nothing matters more to our overall health than what we eat.
So how do employers encourage employees to make healthier food choices? Here are six ways to get started.
1. Make healthy food choices the only food choice in the workplace.
Replace candy bowls with overflowing bowls of fresh, seasonal, preferably organic fruit. When staff members are hungry, bored or anxious, you are encouraging them to reach for a fresh peach…or apple, or fig, or orange, depending on the season. This is a snack with impact: nutrition, fiber, and vitality. At our office we follow the seasons very closely. This keeps flavors interesting and connects us to the patterns of nature. In the winter, we follow the citrus harvest from southern Florida to southern Georgia, tasting the different varieties and terroirs along the way. Same with peaches and other stone fruits—we move from “free stones” to “clingstone” varieties. We’re a food business, so this has the double benefit of helping to educate and fine-tune our palates.
When lunch is catered, make sure it’s healthy. Offer bottled water instead of soda, and herbal teas along with coffee. Make healthy food the norm. Keep high-protein items like nuts or edamame around as additional snacks. Who doesn’t love an apple with almond butter? Make it easy for employees to reach for things that will sustain and nourish them.
A 2015 survey of more than 1,000 full-time office workers, by grocery-delivery service Peapod, found that companies that provide free food have happier employees. While the majority, 56 percent, of full-time employees are “extremely” or “very” happy with their current job, that number jumps to 67 percent among those who have access to free food — although only 16 percent of employees said they got free snacks and treats at work. Peapod reports that the top 10 items it sells to businesses are all fresh fruit: bananas, strawberries and apples.
2. Model good food choices.
Leaders and business owners need to be aware that just as they are modeling appropriate business behaviors for their staff and employees, they are also modeling lifestyle choices, especially around health and wellness. At lunch, choose dishes that will boost your energy and carry you through the afternoon, rather than foods that will make you feel sluggish and drained. Be the first to reach for the fresh apple. Talk about how delicious it is. Encourage others to try it. Educate yourself on the varieties of fruits and vegetables and their various nutritional contributions, then share this information with your colleagues in the place of standard small talk. Get the people around you to think about their food choices because of the good choices they see you making.
3. Make healthy food a part of the conversation.
In a 2005 report, “The Determinants of Food Choice,” the European Food Information Council concluded that making fresh fruit and vegetables available in the workplace was encouraging to employees, but that combining availability with educational efforts was even more successful at affecting change: “The combination of nutrition education with changes in the workplace are more likely to succeed particularly if interactive activities are employed and if such activities are sustained for long periods.”
At staff meetings, ask trivia questions that relate to healthy food and lifestyle choices (i.e. which is more of a super food: kale or blueberries?). Invite health and wellness coaches into the office for lunch-and-learns. At PeachDish, we offer lunch-and-learns with our Culinary Director, a professionally trained chef, AND our Registered Dietitian. Together, they present a full story of not just what to eat, but also how to prepare it easily.
Initiate healthy food challenges around the office. It could be anything from observing Meatless Mondays in May to Fish on Fridays in February to a raw food, vegan challenge for the month of July. Make healthy eating an essential part of your corporate culture.
4. Encourage employees to cook.
Cooking with whole, fresh foods is an essential part of health. It also has the added benefit of being a relaxing, creative activity. Incorporate cook-offs into team-building exercises. Encourage employees to share healthy, easy recipes with one another. Sponsor a community cookbook for your business. For incentives and prizes, give healthy whole foods that encourage cooking, such as meal-kits or a produce basket. Host a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) drop at your office. Work with a meal-kit delivery service such as PeachDish to give special pricing to your employees.
5. Choose organic produce, proteins and dairy, and encourage your employees to do the same.
A healthy community translates to a healthy environment. In addition to toxin-free food, organic agriculture creates healthy pockets of biodiversity around the planet, reduces agricultural pollution such as pesticides and fertilizer run-offs, and helps to sequester carbon emission. Educate yourself and your staff on the importance of organics. A great place to start is with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.
6. Indulgence is ok, but choose REAL ingredients.
Don’t make healthy food a dogma. Dogma creates rebellion. Breaking the rules is fine as long as we acknowledge indulgences for what they are. Celebrate birthdays or other occasions with cake, but make it the best-quality cake you can buy with real buttercream icing — a true indulgence! Talk about the quality of the cake and what a treat it is. If you must have chocolate in the office, make it extremely high quality: fair trade, bean-to-bar. At our office, we are big fans of Cacao Atlanta’s daily dose. It’s a .2-ounce bite of dark chocolate, specially formulated to maximize the health benefits of chocolate.
Most lasting change happens incrementally. Slowly but surely — by making it easy for our employees to make healthy food choices; by making daily, deliberate and intentional decisions that encourage healthy food choices for ourselves and our staff; by making healthy food a part of the conversation; by encouraging our employees to cook; by educating ourselves on the importance of organics; and by making room for indulgences — employers can encourage employees to make healthier food choices and, with any luck, help get the snowball rolling to a healthier, happier, more successful workforce.
View the original whitepaper here.Amber KainChief ScribeJuly 27, 2017 at 9:44 pm
Ariel – this is a good find. I’m actually thinking about how we can expand on the foods we have in the office, and to offer more fresh and healthy options (especially in our community “Food Cube”)!Krystal HuntChief ScribeJuly 29, 2017 at 3:40 pm
Definitely a good find Ariel! Its hard when we get busy to make good food choices. I know many of our employees end up just opting out of eating while on shift or a heavy back to back call schedule day. I am guilty of it too. Being conscious of it is definitely the first step. Meal prepping and thinking ahead of snack is always great too!
Thank you for sharing!Justin WilsonModeratorAugust 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm
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Yay! Found the Summer Hunt post. Am I too late?
In regards to this topic, I think that healthy eating is very important. Sometimes I find myself going to the cafeteria or vending machines during a shift because I forgot to bring a lunch. I think better ways to promote good healthy eating, is to coordinate with staff on your team and bring good healthy choices in. It only takes a couple minutes to make a good meal.
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