Nutrition: The Key to Employee Wellness
Your organization has implemented a wellness program to improve employee health, yet following a big holiday there are leftover pastries and cookies in the office coffee room; employees' birthdays are celebrated with cake, and the weekend is kicked off with pizza delivery for the office. Does this sound familiar to you?
Employers take a big step towards improved employee health when they implement a wellness program. Employees often complete personal health assessments and attend programs on healthy eating, exercise, mental stress, sleep and financial fitness. Sometimes, however, nutrition gets pushed aside. Or an employer may provide nutrition-based programs but not take steps to overhaul the company café, vending machines and the food served at company events. Many employees say the one thing that derails their healthy eating is the abundance of unhealthy food available at their workplace (see our March blog post).
The short-term benefits of promoting good nutrition directly impacts increased worker productivity. When better food choices are made, employees have better sleep cycles, reduced anxiety and stress, improved moods and more energy. Overall, this contributes to better interpersonal relationships, increased employee performance and lower health-related expenses.
Conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes cost employers approximately $28.2 million yearly in productivity loss due to absenteeism or limitations. Poor dietary choices are known risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and studies have shown that diet accounts for about 40 percent of cancer risk. For example, a diet low in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy has been linked to individuals at a high risk for breast, colorectal, mouth, esophagus and stomach cancers.
However, there’s good news for employers. There are very effective food wellness programs that can be incorporated into an employer’s wellness program, including:
Working with the company cafeteria to create healthier menu options that are appealing and include clearly labeled food ingredients and nutritional information.
Providing weekly/monthly nutrition education sessions for employees that can include group discussions, physician and nutritionist guest speakers, and cooking demonstrations.
Putting colorful bowls of fruits and vegetables such as grapes, oranges, bananas, carrots, cherry tomatoes, apples and peppers in office break rooms and common spaces.
Reviewing the snacks offered in office vending machines and adding healthier alternatives.
Celebrating birthdays by offering employees a paid day off or a paid day to volunteer at an organization of their choice. Celebrations don’t have to include food, but if you choose to do so, keep it healthy with a fruit-based dessert.
Employers are well-positioned to offer healthy food options and educate employees in a way that encourages both behavioral and lifestyle changes. As easy as a food wellness plan may seem, it has a huge potential to improve employee health and an employer’s financial bottom line. At Wellness Workdays, our team is staffed by highly-educated registered dietitians. We help our clients develop healthy nutrition programs as part of a comprehensive wellness program. Contact us for more information and to find out how we can help you your employees improve their diet and their health.