Healthy eating is important wherever we are - at home, at work or on the go. Our diet fuels our bodies to give us energy, keep our hearts beating, and our bones and muscles strong. Healthy foods are also necessary for brain function, which helps us get through a busy workday. Some workplaces have recognised the importance of employee health and wellbeing, which is helping staff make the right food choices for themselves and their families.
Making Good Food Choices
The Australian Dietary Guidelines outline what we should eat for good health. Eating from the five food groups with the majority of foods being vegetables, legumes, fruit, grains, lean meat, reduced fat milk, yoghurt and cheese is the basis for a balanced diet.
However, not everyone remembers or acts on the national dietary guidelines for a variety of reasons. People who have suffered from food insecurity now or while growing up may make food choices based on their economic situation. They may believe it’s much cheaper to buy processed food over fresh foods.
Parents act as role models for their children’s dietary habits. A person who grew up with parents who rarely cooked nutritious meals is more likely to continue those habits into adulthood because they weren’t shown basic cooking skills as an adolescent. Workplaces that have large numbers of socio-economically disadvantaged people may benefit from lunchtime talks or cooking demonstrations on preparing healthy meals for their families.
Healthy Food Options to Buy at Work
Rather than having vending machines at worksites filled with salt or sugary treats, organisations should trial machines that are filled with healthier food alternatives. Popcorn or nuts instead of potato chips, and protein bars instead of chocolate bars is one small step. When you have people working over their evening meal time or at night, it’s important that they have access to healthy food options that resemble a meal rather than a snack. Once bad food choices become a habit, it’s difficult to break the cycle.
Healthy Food Options to Bring Into Work
Having a well-stocked work kitchen and large fridge can encourage workers to bring in their leftovers or lunches prepared at home rather than buying a pre-prepared meal. The benefit of home cooked meals is they usually have less salt, preservatives, additives and fresher ingredients. The cook knows exactly what’s in their meal rather than trying to decipher the ingredient list on the back of the packet.
Wellbeing Program Options
When a person is taking care of their body by exercising regularly, they’re more likely to make smart food choices. Offering wellbeing programs at work can include a range of activities such as walking groups, walk or cycle to work facilities, lunchtime team sport, gym equipment (on-site or subsidised membership), and yoga and meditation classes. Workplace wellbeing programs can also include nutrition advice and guidance to teach your staff how to make healthier food choices. Educating workers about fast and healthy lunch options they can bring from home will encourage workers to make wiser food choices rather than buying a nutritionally deficient fast food lunch.
Food Provided by the Organisation
Rather than celebrating birthdays or events by serving sausage rolls and cakes for morning teas, the organisation can provide healthier food choices. Most workers prefer healthy foods like sushi or wraps, and appreciate the extra thought that went into the food on offer.
Many organisations provide more than tea, coffee and milk. Bowls of fruit are available in the lunchroom so that staff have access to healthy snack options when the afternoon slump hits.
Even providing staff with free access to a wellbeing app can provide access to nutrition information that they wouldn’t otherwise have. The AltiusLife App provides tools, resources, recipes and advice to help Australian workers realise their health potential.
Benefits of a Healthy Workforce
The greatest benefit of a healthy diet is felt by the staff member but the organisation reaps the benefits of a healthy workforce too.
Reduced Absenteeism - poor diet leads to poor overall health and sick days away from work.
More Energy - when staff are feeling healthy, they often have more energy which is needed for a productive day of work.
Longer Working Lives - many Australians retire not because they want to give up work but due to their poor health. A healthy diet can reduce the risk of chronic illness which allows workers to retire later.
Reduced Injuries - fit and healthy employees are less likely to suffer from a workplace injury that will keep them away from work and making a workers’ compensation claim.
Faster Return to Work - a person who enjoys average-to-good health for their age is more likely to be able to return to work faster after an injury or illness than a person who is in poor health.
Staying healthy at work can be a challenge, though our workplace wellbeing programs can help with workplace nutrition. Call 1800 258 487 or contact us online for more information.