Your employees are probably not going hungry thanks to the salaries they receive from your company. But are they eating healthy? Considering the fast-paced world we live in with junk food available at every nook and corner, many Indians (whether overweight or underweight) are not receiving the nutrients required for a productive day. Your workplace may be contributing to this issue by having your cafeteria offering fried snacks like samosas and vada pav or having vending machines full of sodas and candies. On the whole, most employees eat at least one meal and one snack at the workplace. As an employer, you obviously can’t dictate what your employees should eat but there are many ways in which you can guide and support better nutrition habits at your workplace.
In this article we will understand:
- How health and wellness are impacted by nutrition
- Ways in which your workplace can promote healthy eating.
Connect the Dots
Poor nutrition leads to poor health.
As a result of good nutrition, the immune system is boosted and diseases are warded off, enabling our bodies to store and use energy efficiently; regulate the effects of hormones on mood; and much more. Besides depriving the body of important nutrients, poor eating habits are also harmful to the environment.
India was long known as a country with malnourished and underweight people, but it now ranks among the top five countries when it comes to obesity. According to a 2016 estimate, 135 million Indians were overweight or obese. That’s a lot of people!
Increased obesity causes heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and obesity is associated with high cholesterol levels, hypertension, high cholesterol, strokes, liver disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and gynecological problems (Including irregular menstrual cycles and infertility).
Poor nutrition causes innumerable health issues, not just obesity. For example, a nutritious diet along with regular exercise helps in cancer prevention. Eating healthy could reduce the risk of cardiac attacks, bone loss, some types of cancer, and even anemia.
So how can you help?
- Share healthy recipes through emails
- Conduct health fairs within your campus where you can pass out pamphlets and offer healthy bites at a nutrition booth
- Make WhatsApp groups and circulate YouTube videos regarding nutrition and healthy eating habits
- Create a library with cookbooks with healthy recipes and books on nutrition
- Educate your employees with the help of nutrition seminars.
Hiring a Nutritionist to give a talk to your employees once a month can spread informative health habits among your employees and ward off their doubts.
You can also try educating your employees on what keeps them from eating right, even if they know what foods they should be consuming. Stress, including work-related stress, is another common culprit. Stress tends to make people eat, and if you’re running a small business right now, in this economy, you’ll be highly stressed. A better understanding of why employees choose unhealthy foods will give them a better chance of changing their habits.
Identify which places offer healthy and nutritious food close to the workplace as well as the employee’s neighborhood. This will be of great help to them to make the switch to healthy eating.
Let’s have lunch!
Activities you could Follow
Incorporating food into program activities will be a breeze. The love of food is universal. It is true that sugary or junk food may attract people faster than healthy food, but participants will soon discover how delicious and even decadent, healthy food can be.
To incorporate wellness activities into your company calendar program, here are some suggestions.
- Food potlucks with healthy ingredients. Invite employees to health-focused lunches or parties where everyone contributes a homemade dish.
- Competitions for recipes. Provide employees with a copy of the recipe for their favorite healthy dish. The winner is determined by the nutritional content and tastiness of the food. Print up and distribute the recipes.
- Food events that are themed according to the season. Cooking demonstrations could be held during Ganpati celebrations or during Diwali dinners to make healthy snacks.
- Explain the importance of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables and offer an incentive if they adhere to it.
- Maintain personal food diaries. Here they can make a note of their fruit and vegetable intake and they themselves will notice at what point in a day their energy level dips and they reach out for chocolate or a piece of mithai.
- Explain the importance of tasting food. People tend to gulp down their food without chewing it properly. Educate them on savoring the experience of taste.
- Personalized coaching. Bringing in outside wellness providers may include helping your employees modify their eating habits if they have health or weight problems. Individualized programs are the best. A poor diet can result in a variety of issues, such as eating too much fat or not eating enough fruits and vegetables. A good coaching program will address those needs.
Celebrations can be fun without being decadent. In India we celebrate almost every festival. Start promoting healthy snacks and sweets at every gathering and create a healthier work environment.
Replace the Mithai and Samosa!
- Is every happy occasion celebrated with the distribution of mithai? Drop that and replace calorie-laden sweets with dry fruits and healthy options. Mithai is full of sugar and calories offering little or no health benefits. There are of course some mithais made with dates and jaggery. You could opt for these varities of healthy sweets.
- Put out fresh fruit for snacks. Most workplaces offer samosas, puffs and vada pavs as snacks. Provide healthy alternatives.
- Share and redistribute the sweets received in the festive season. Encourage employees to take home sweets to family get-togethers so they are distributed among a greater number of people.
- If you have a vending machine stock it with healthy choices, like yogurts, milk, and fruit juices rather than candy bars or potato chips.
Do you have a cafeteria? In the event that you do have an employee cafeteria, that’s a great place to implement good nutrition principles. But if you don’t, we assume your company isnt large enough to have one. In that case ensure that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed, and other healthy foods and drinks are readily available, prominently displayed, and accompanied by health information. Starch options should not be limited to French fries!
- Provide employees with easy access to their lunches. In this way, people can avoid fast food joints and other restaurants with dubious offerings. Lunchrooms should be equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, toaster ovens, and plates and silverware.
- Establish an outdoor seating area. Add a tables and chairs to your office’s outdoor space to encourage employees to eat together, bring their own lunch, and get some fresh air and oxygen intake.
- Catering for company events should be done by healthy caterers. If you want nutrition information or suggestions, don’t be afraid to ask your regular caterer.
Choosing Snacks for your Vending Machine that are Nutritious and Beneficial to Your Employees
The following items are commonly offered by vending machine companies. They provide reasonable nutritional benefits with reduced health risks — though many of them are still processed foods, which are less than ideal.
- 2%, 1%, skim, and chocolate milk
- 100% fruit juice
- vegetable juice
- whole grain crackers
- canned fruit
- baked chips, soy crisps
- cereal bars
- fruit bars
- nuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts
- dried fruit
- trail mix
- healthy soup or chili in a cup
- fresh fruit cups
- whole fruit
- vegetable sticks
- salads with low-fat dressing on the side
- low-fat cheese
- sandwiches made with whole grain bread and lean meat
The healthy food should be displayed at eye level, with a sticker next to it that indicates it’s a healthy choice. If you plan to maintain a mix of healthy and other foods in your vending machine, send out a memo explaining the change when it takes place explaining which healthy choices will be included. You might also poll your employees about which healthy choices should be included. If necessary, you can even switch caterers. The catering industry is well aware of people’s interest in healthy, as well as organic, locally grown, and sustainable food, and many caterers are making a switch in their menus to meet the demand.
Catering a Healthy Meal at the Workplace
Follow the guidelines given below:
- Incorporate healthy food items into your workplace wellness programs as an incentive. Participants or goal achievers within your program might be motivated by a gift certificate to a healthy restaurant; a free box of fresh fruits and vegetables; or a cookbook filled with nutritious recipes.
- Create a policy limiting the mithai brought in on festivals or celebrations like promotions etc. Agreed it’s a happy occasion but mithai is still mithai. It can cause your body harm and does not hold any nutritional value. Of course, the distribution of sweets and other high calorie savouries and food items varies from company to company depending on your company culture, but if you’re seeing a constant stream of mithai boxes on every occasion, this definitely needs to be addressed! Your employees will realize that giving in to temptations will be harmful to them in the long run. Do not ban sweets completely as it might create resentment but do try to limit it over a period of time.
Remember improving the Health and Well-being of your employees with sustained effort always makes good business sense and pays the company back in the long run many times over.
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