Five Effective Strategies for Promoting Healthy Eating in the Workplace
Eating healthierwas one of the top new year’s resolutions in 2023. And isn’t it every year? Most of us know we should eat more veggies, so it’s likely some of your employees are evaluating how to change their relationship with food.
But changing your eating habits is hard — that’s why it’s a resolution year-in and year-out. By promoting healthy food at work, you can help your staff reach their personal food and nutrition goals.
So what does that mean for the food you bring into the workplace? Do you only choose grocery store food items with big, bold letters that say: low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free? Not exactly. Let’s dive into five effective strategies you can use to promote healthy eating in the workplace.
- Understand the Benefits of Offering Healthy Food at Work
Healthy eating in the workplace has myriad benefits that can improve employees’ overall health and wellbeing. Good nutrition and hydration can improve productivity by increasing energy levels and enhancing concentration and mental clarity. This might mean that your employees have the energy to be more creative and innovative in their day-to-day work.
Getting the proper nutrients from healthy food can also lower stress levelsand reduce absenteeism. In the long term,healthy eating also decreases the riskof developing chronic diseaseslike diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. A healthier workforce can mean lower costs on group insurance rates.
- Make Healthy Food a Social Experience
Eating togetherhas been shown to reduce stress and improve overall satisfaction! Making healthy eating fun and social at work can spark better food choices and promote joy in the practice.
Share Lunch with Coworkers
One way to make healthy eating more engaging is to host a healthy office potluck. This lets co-workers share food and try new dishes, which can help break up the monotony of having the same baked chicken for lunch you always pack yourself because, well, it’s easy.
Alternatively, it could be fun to organize a healthy lunch swap where employees sign up to exchange with a coworker. You can include remote employees by offering a tandem program through a meal delivery service. Think of it as a gift exchange, but for healthy meals! (Just make sure you collect dietary restrictions or allergy information employees would like to share before people start cooking.)
Visit a Local Farmer’s Market
Another great way to promote healthy eating while fostering social interaction among coworkers is organizing visits to local farmer’s markets. This gives employees the chance to buy fresh fruits and veggies from local farmers at reasonable prices and explore new types of produce.
Host Cooking Demo Days
Hosting cooking lessons or demo days could introduce employees to new recipes or dishes. It also allows them to learn about alternatives to foods they love, such as whole grain crackers or brown rice. During these demos, workers can learn more about the nutritional value of the food they consume. Plus, with the right instructor, it’s fun to learn new skills and practice making healthy food with others!
Hire Healthy Food Services
If you have the budget, consider offering pop-up services like a smoothie and juice bar. The vendor can set up shop at your office throughout various times of the year. Not only will this provide easy access to healthier food options for your employees, but it could also create a sense of camaraderie as people take breaks and share a cup of nutritious fruits and vegetables together!
- Gamify Healthy Eating Education
Another way to promote healthy eating in the workplace is through education, specifically through various gamification techniques. Research shows thatgamificationcan effectively engage employees in learning activities and motivate them to apply what they learn. Plus, who doesn’t like a little friendly competition with their fellow coworkers?
Consider inviting a nutritionist or dietitian to teach a lunch & learn session so your employees can gain new insights into healthy eating. You can follow up these sessions with access to online resources like meal planners, recipes, and nutrition-based articles. Then you can set up nutrition quizzes based on your employees’ learning and offer fun prizes or perks for the winners.
Consider offering additional incentives to get people excited. Employees can, for example, earn rewardsfor taking part in quizzes and games, for limiting processed food intake, or drinking more water daily. These rewards could be anything from gift cards to extra PTO days!
- Connect with Food through Mindful Eating
One way to develop a better relationship with food is throughmindful eating, a practice that can make eating more enjoyable and prevent common food-related issues like overeating, weight gain, and anxiety. Mindful eating entails practicing how to eat slowly, savor flavors, be aware of fullness cues, and eliminate distractions. You can, for example, encourage your staff to turn off their screens and eat lunch away from their desk so they have fewer distractions during their meal.
Knowing where and how food is made is also a big part of mindful eating. Consider encouraging your employees to find outwhere their food comesfrom. This can help people feel more connected to their food and make more informed decisions about their eating choices. You can also educate them on the significance of shopping locally and seasonally by visiting a local farm or community garden.
Alternatively, try planting an office garden so employees can see the process up close and personal. Growing fruits and vegetables is not only fun, but it’s also great for teaching everyone more about organic produce. Not only do you get fresh ingredients right at work, but you’re also able to enjoy homegrown meals together as a team!
Finally, consider hosting a screening of important food-related documentaries, like those aboutregenerative agriculture. You can also invite speakers who can share inspiring stories about the importance of human connection to food and the land we live on.
- Adjust the Work Environment to Shape Habits
Environmental cuescan influence our eating behaviors. Consider how your working environment shapes your team members’ eating habits and ways you can improve it. One way is by offering healthy snacks or food options in the office kitchen, cafeteria, vending machines, or break rooms. Instead of stocking vending machines with sugary drinks, candy bars, and processed snacks, consider filling them with fresh fruits and vegetables, granola bars, trail mix, or other healthy items.
The same goes for meetings and catered events. Choosing healthier catering options at events such as work lunches or client meetings can make all the difference in creating a healthier working environment. Instead of serving high-calorie food such as pizza, donuts, or chips, consider lighter fare like lean proteins, fruits, nuts, and salad options full of colorful mixed vegetables.
If your employees work remotely, you can encourage healthy meals by sending gift cards or vouchers for health-conscious restaurants and stores.
Creating a Positive Culture Around Food
Everyone comes from different backgrounds with different eating habits and diet. Even when your goal is to promote eating healthier at work, it’s still essential to establish a positive culture around food that maintains respect and understanding for everyone’s dietary choices. Making nutrition a part of your wellness program is a great way to start. These programs can create opportunities for people to come together for meals and talk about food without judgment.
With the right combination of initiatives, you can make sure that your workforce remains energized and productive without sacrificing healthy habits. If you need guidance on promoting healthier lifestyles among your staff, then reach out to a Gympass Wellbeing Specialist today!
- 50% Of Gen Z Cite This Health Improvement As A Top New Year’s Resolution For 2023. (December 7, 2022). Forbes. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-survey/.
- Benefits of gamification in training. (2023). eLearning Learning. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.elearninglearning.com/gamification/statistics/?open-article-id=10681320&article-title=benefits-of-gamification-in-training&blog-domain=paradisosolutions.com&blog-title=paradiso.
- External cues challenging the internal appetite control system—Overview and practical implications. (May 8, 2017). Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2015.1073140.
- Food2050 Series. (2023). The Rockefeller Foundation. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.food2050series.com/.
- Know Where Your Food Comes From with USDA Foods. (July 13, 2022). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/05/25/know-where-your-food-comes-usda-foods.
- Mindful Eating. (2023). Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mindful-eating/.
- New survey: 91% of parents say their family is less stressed when they eat together. (October 10, 2022). Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://newsroom.heart.org/news/new-survey-91-of-parents-say-their-family-is-less-stressed-when-they-eat-together.
- Poor Nutrition. (2023). CDC. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/nutrition.htm.
- Stress and Health. (2023). Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health. Retrieved on February 15, 2023 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/stress-and-health/.
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.