Your people spend a significant portion of their time at work – about one-third of their weekdays are spent at the office, precisely – and one-third of their meals are taken during office hours. With these numbers, the value of promoting healthy eating in the workplace is not to be underestimated.

March is Nutrition Month and this year, dietitians across Canada are committing to helping Canadians ‘Unlock the Potential of Food’ by discussing how food not only nourishes, but also adds to and improves lives. They aim to accomplish this by providing guidance and information aimed at making it easier to uncover the limitless potential of food to fuel our bodies, discover and learn about nutrition, prevent chronic diseases, heal ailments, and bring people together through shared experiences.

In the workplace, healthy eating and nutrition programs can serve an integral role in fostering employee health and wellness, as well as establish a supportive environment for practicing healthy eating behaviours in the office.

Guided by the topics explored in this year’s Nutrition Month campaign, here are ways to engage and empower your workforce in exploring healthy eating in their day-to-day routines.

The potential to fuel

What are the barriers to healthy eating in the workplace? For many of today’s busy employees, they are lacking in the time and the motivation to give a second thought to healthy eating on top of all of their pressing work duties and responsibilities.

According to an Ipsos survey, half of Canadians (49%) find it challenging to eat a balanced diet when they are busy. When you’ve got a packed day full of tasks to complete, and when hunger strikes or frustration hits, it’s easier to go for the faster but less healthy food options.

A nutritious diet is crucial to the health and wellbeing and overall success of employees, so companies should make it a priority to invest their time and resources in ensuring this as a guarantee in the workplace.

As a first step, employers can take stock of and evaluate their work environment and determine if the current state of the office makes it easy for people to make healthy choices. Designated areas for food storage and access to kitchen applications for food preparation encourages employees to bring in and make their own lunches.

In an effort to help your people meet the recommended servings set by Canada’s Food Guide, employers can stock the kitchen with nutritious foods to snack on. In Rise’s communal kitchen, our employees are provided with a variety of options such as fruits and vegetables, yogurt, nuts, granola bars, smoothies, and oatmeal.

Employees who eat well are employees who feel better, have increased consistent energy, have improved mood and decreased stress, and are more engaged and productive in their work.

The potential to discover

As a company, take up the responsibility of developing and promoting healthy workplace policies that endorse healthy lifestyles, such as healthy eating.

When introducing health and wellness programming, ensure that initiatives are aligned with your people’s schedules, needs, interests, and goals. Your people and culture committee, or health and wellness committee, can be tasked with surveying employees to gather information for the purpose of developing and running relevant and effective awareness campaigns to introduce concepts of healthy eating. For instance, your company can send out internal staff newsletters with health-related content, such as articles with how-tos and tips, healthy recipes, and other resources.

Take it steps further by providing educational opportunities for skills and knowledge building when it comes to healthy eating. Examples include hosting a cooking demonstration with a local chef, in which your people learn to cook, try new foods, and learn about nutrition and healthy eating in an applicable and engaging way, and facilitating lunch and learns with a nutritionist or a dietitian to discuss how a nutritious diet can help prevent chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, lower the risk of stroke and some types of cancer, and health ailments and stress.

The potential to bring people together

According to an Ipsos poll, 30% of Canadians consider it a challenge to find time to eat meals in the company of others. Even so, it’s important to share our meals because it connects people, opens up conversations, and helps people focus on eating a more balanced diet. In the workplace, you can help your workforce encounter the power of people coming together for shared meals by encouraging communal eating.

To start, review your company’s lunch break policies. HR pros are well aware of the fact that eating lunch at your desk is a bad idea for the negative effect on health and productivity, but is it clear to employees that this is discouraged? It’s easy to overeat and consume unhealthy food options when mindlessly munching at one’s desk. Encourage your people to eat their lunches away from their desks so they can practice more mindfulness, relaxation, and enjoyment when eating.

Furthermore, you can enable your people to have communal meals and snacks together by providing healthy food selections at team meetings and gatherings. Here at Rise, our People & Culture Committee organizes a healthy potluck lunch every month to encourage our team members to try out and bond over homemade dishes from their colleagues. To level up, plan on running fun and engaging workplace health and wellness challenges to get your team in the competitive spirit as they learn more about healthy lifestyle and eating while bonding with their coworkers.

With initiatives to help colleagues come together over food, your company can help your people feel part of a work community through opportunities for team-bonding and team-building.

Over to you

What has the potential to make a difference in shaping your workforce’s healthy lifestyle habits is having your company’s ambassadors and leadership exhibit model behaviour, because change starts from the top. Your health and wellness committees, HR managers, and even your executive team can demonstrate the importance of taking care of one’s health and wellbeing by keeping hydrated throughout the day, bringing homemade food for lunch, and taking the time to have healthy snacks throughout the day.

By helping your people make wise health and wellness decisions today, you will soon see the immediate impacts on your business, and ultimately, on your people’s long-term health decisions.

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