Creating a healthy workplace nutrition environment
A healthy workplace nutrition environment exists when a workplace promotes healthy eating through words AND actions.
It makes good business sense to invest in a healthy workforce. Employees spend a considerable portion of their day at work. A workplace that encourages and models healthy eating practices supports their employee’s healthy eating behaviours at work and at home. Everyone benefits from making the workplace a healthy place.
Benefits for the workplace:
- improved employee health
- reduced health benefit claims
- increased employee productivity and morale
- successful employee recruitment and retention
- enhanced corporate image and reputation
Benefits for the employees:
- improved overall well-being
- increased energy levels
- manage stress better
- experience lower rates of chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity)
Workplaces are an ideal setting to promote healthy eating
The work environment can be a powerful driver of employee eating behaviours. Although employees ultimately decide what to eat, the foods available and sold in the workplace influence their food selections. The conditions in which people work, including their nutrition environment, can affect their health.
What is a healthy workplace nutrition environment?
A healthy workplace nutrition environment exists when a workplace consistently promotes healthy eating through words AND actions. The workplace goes beyond educating employees about healthy eating and addresses the underlying barriers that make it difficult for employees to adopt healthy eating behaviours at work.
For example, hunger pangs can sneak up on anyone and lead to poor decisions if their lunch bag is empty. A workplace that offers a variety of appealing, healthy foods helps reduce the burden on the individual to make healthy choices. In short, it makes the healthy choice the easy choice.
Essential Elements of a Healthy Workplace Nutrition Environment
1. The organization commits to a positive healthy eating culture, for example:
- management formally commits to achieving a Healthy Workplace Nutrition Environment
- management pulls together key players to develop a wellness plan (i.e., a wellness committee, wellness champions or workers’ advocates)
- management addresses weight discrimination and models respect for all body shapes and sizes
2. Supportive social eating environment, for example:
- meals and breaks are scheduled at predictable times
- common work areas are not used as a drop-off for leftover food (e.g. candy, holiday baking)
- employees are rewarded with non-food items
- workplace celebrations and fundraisers support healthy eating
3. Supportive physical eating environment, for example:
- the workplace offers clean and pleasant eating area(s)
- the workplace provides food storage and preparation equipment (e.g. fridge, microwave)
4. Access to healthy, reasonably priced, culturally appropriate food, for example:
- foods sold in all workplace settings support healthy eating
- if food and drinks are provided at meetings, the choices available support healthy eating
5. Credible nutrition education and social support for employees and their families, for example:
- employees are offered regular opportunities for nutrition education in a variety of ways (e.g. workplace challenges, ongoing peer support programs, food demonstrations, and information sessions)
- invitations are extended to employee family members, wherever possible
6. Nutrition education for key decision makers and intermediaries provided by a Registered Dietitian
- this ensures key nutrition messages align with current best practices and healthy eating activities
7. Access to services from a Registered Dietitian, for example:
- the workplace promotes or pursues Registered Dietitian coverage in the employee benefit plan
- the workplace advertises UnlockFood.ca, Telehealth – speak to a Registered Dietitian, and other related services of registered health professionals in the community
8. Safe food practices and accommodation of special dietary needs:
- management ensures measures are taken to reduce health risks related to food-borne illness and food allergies
9. Nutrition policies that encourage healthy eating, for example:
- guidelines to assist in the selection of healthy food and drinks at meetings (e.g. offer Canada’s Food Guide recommended servings of vegetables, fruit and whole grains for all-day meetings)
- guidelines that outline when to offer food at meetings and the appropriate areas to share food within the workplace
- consider adopting a policy for each of the nine elements
For more detailed information on how to create a Healthy Nutrition Workplace Environment, check out the Workplace Call To Action or call the Workplace Health line at 705.522.9200, ext. 290 (toll-free at 1.866.522.9200).
This item was last modified on February 11, 2019