Workplace Wellness, Part 2: Encouraging Healthy Eating

August 18, 2016


Healthy vegetarian meal

More and more companies are implementing health and wellness programs and it’s not hard to see why. Studies show that every $1 spent on employee wellness programs will save you $4 in healthcare, absentee, productivity and attrition costs.

There are two keys to any good wellness program: diet and exercise. While part one of the series focused on exercise, this article will tackle how to institute a corporate healthy eating program.

There is increasing evidence that an unhealthy diet and lack of regular physical activity are related to adverse health outcomes such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. Research has shown that approximately 40 percent of cancer risk is related to dietary choices. Encouraging your employees to change their eating habits can decrease the number of sick days, as well as their need to utilize their health coverage.

What is a healthy diet?

There is a lot of conflicting information as to what constitutes a healthy diet, but the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a great website with a ton of resources for managers and employees, including menu plans, food exchange lists, shopping tips and more.

How to encourage a healthier diet for your employees:

  1. Clean out your vending machines. Replace cookies and candy bars with healthier alternatives.
  2. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) suggests providing your employees with a pocket guide to help them make informed decisions for themselves and their families when shopping for food.
  3. Have your employees check websites like CalorieKing.com to get nutrition info on the restaurants they frequent.
  4. The WSJ suggests offering voluntary and confidential health-risk assessments: “Employees who complete assessments may find risk factors and then be able to take steps to head off health threats. For $5 to $15 per employee, your insurance company or a third-party vendor may be able to provide personal online assessments — usually 80 to 120 questions — based on a user’s family health history, eating habits and physical activity.” Offer incentives such as free movie tickets to entice employees to complete the assessment.
  5. When having lunch meetings, avoid pizza and sodas. Instead, order food that fits in with your company’s healthy eating program.
  6. When offering nutrition information at the workplace, be sure to offer a wide range of options. Different employees will have different needs and concerns. Include information on weight management and body image, planning balanced meals for the whole family, programs for specific health conditions (diabetes, heart conditions, etc.), healthy eating on the run, and vegetarian eating.
  7. Create a company cookbook. Encourage your employees to share their favorite recipes.

Keep in mind that healthy eating programs should be voluntary. Not everyone will join or be interested. Survey employees to help you to decide what types and levels of programs to offer.

For more information on instituting an employee wellness program, contact Vanguard Resources.