You likely understand the importance of healthy eating in your personal life. Our diets can support our overall physical and mental health, empowering us to live more fulfilling lives. In the workplace, healthy eating initiatives prompt similar benefits.
When workplaces help support healthy eating through workforce initiatives, the results are striking. A balanced diet, supported by employers, helps workers maintain their health and productivity, which in turn creates a host of business benefits.
With this in mind, explore why it’s in the best interest of workplaces to integrate healthy eating initiatives, what healthy eating is all about, and how to support and propose such initiatives within your own workforce. Here’s what you need to know.
The Business Benefits of Healthy Eating
Let’s start with the benefits businesses can experience by instituting healthy eating initiatives. For the same reasons that comprehensive healthcare plans are good for business, healthy food options, support, and education can all boost employee morale and productivity. That’s because healthy workers are sick less, distracted less, and in bad moods less.
As a result of these benefits, healthy eating can be transformative for businesses. Here are just a few statistics that support this conclusion:
- Healthy eating supports heightened brain power, leading to 25% higher rates of productivity for workers who eat healthy at least four times a week.
- On average, unscheduled absences cost businesses $2,660 per year per employee. Nutrition counseling reduces the risk of lost workdays for those with type 2 diabetes by 67%.
- Diets with high glycemic loads led to 38% higher depressive symptoms than diets with lower glycemic items like fruits and vegetables. Depression has been found to reduce cognitive performance 35% of the time, interfering with an individual’s ability to do their best work.
- Poor dieting leads to decreased testosterone levels, which is associated with obesity in both men and women. Obese workers account for 61% of healthcare-related costs for businesses.
These are just a few of the many associated effects of healthy eating that can impact business. By supporting healthy eating in their workers, businesses mitigate the productivity and health impacts of poor dieting that can affect your bottom line. However, establishing the importance of healthy eating requires understanding what it entails.
What Healthy Eating is All About
Before you can propose a healthy eating initiative, you should first understand what it means to eat healthily. While everyone has their specific preferences and dietary needs, certain recommendations can help just about every worker maintain their health and energy on the job.
First and foremost, healthy eating is centered around the five basic food groups. By balancing each of these groups in moderation, you ensure your body has the nutrients it needs. These food groups are
- Fruits and vegetables
- Starchy foods
- Dairy (or dairy substitutes)
Your diet should consist of all these items to maintain your health. But there are a few more specific things you can eat regularly that will improve your health, reduce your absences from work, and boost your life expectancy overall.
For example, fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These acids are vital when it comes to your brain’s performance as well as heart function. A healthy diet that incorporates omega-3-rich foods and dark leafy greens is a diet better suited to productivity and engagement.
But how can workplaces support workers in eating as they should?
Supporting Healthy Eating in the Workplace
Getting a workforce to make better dietary decisions requires initiative. By implementing programs and incentives that allow workers to stay healthy in the office, you create a culture of self-care and improvement. Even remote workers can benefit from some of the initiatives you might put together to support healthier eating.
Here, we’ve outlined a few powerful suggestions for healthy eating initiatives in the workplace:
Promote Health Literacy
Health literacy is an important aspect of well-being, and yet 90% of Americans struggle with it. Part of the problem is that we are bombarded with conflicting information about what’s good for us and what isn’t.
That’s why an important workplace health initiative focuses on providing education and resources to employees. You can invite dieticians or healthcare professionals to host workshops or conduct a healthy eating lunch and learn. Additionally, bulletin boards, newsletters, and other information sources can help workers make good dietary choices.
Offer Healthy Food Items
For companies that have vending machines, cafeterias, or even coffee stations, presenting healthy choices can be a simple and effective initiative. It’s much easier to make healthy choices when they are accessible to us. For example, offering zero-sugar keto sweeteners in addition to cream and sugar will allow employees to make small but meaningful changes.
If your workforce is remote, there are ways you can offer healthy choices—even if indirectly. For instance, you might consider partnering with a food box company to provide discounts to workers for healthy items. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are another great option.
Partner with CSA Initiatives
CSA programs are built around the idea of promoting healthy eating sustainably and locally. Through these initiatives, employers and employees arrange to pre-pay for local produce to be delivered via truck right to the workplace. This gives workers a convenient option for picking up healthy fruits and vegetables.
The research into the health benefits of CSA programs is promising thus far. With first-time participants upping their fruit and vegetable intake to healthy levels, offering CSA vouchers and incentives can be a powerful means of improving worker health.
Proposing a Healthy Eating Initiative to Management
By implementing healthy eating initiatives like these, workplaces gain the benefits that come from healthier and more alert employees. The savings and productivity gains are unmeasurable, as they can have a domino effect on reducing health insurance costs, absences, daily productivity waste, and so much more.
Now that you understand the importance of these initiatives, it’s time to take these ideas to higher management. Show your managers or colleagues the data, then further explore how healthy eating programs can benefit your business’s greatest assets.
With healthier workers, you are better positioned to elevate every aspect of your business model, from customer service to daily efficiency.