Fresh, healthy foods are central to our well-being, yet many companies continue to offer junk food in vending machines, soda in the break room fridge, pizza at meetings and fried foods in the cafeteria. Consuming these unhealthy choices can lead to weight gain, lack of energy and even chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Moreover, all of this can have a negative impact on employee engagement or productivity – and consequently, your bottom line.
What To Do
If employee well-being is a company priority, it’s time to review how your company supports healthy eating habits. Worried that your employees might revolt? In a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management, 97 percent of companies said their employees responded favorably or very favorably to their efforts to promote healthy foods and drinks.
Since March is National Nutrition Month®, now is a great time to start. Keep in mind that the best approach isn’t to flat-out eliminate unhealthy foods, but to provide and promote healthy options. Here are four ways to promote a healthy culture:
1. Re-Organize Vending Machines
This is a popular stop for busy employees – and sadly, the offerings here sometimes replace meals. If you do nothing else, add a bunch of healthy snack options to your vending machines – like nuts, dried fruit, low-sugar energy bars and trail mix. One Limeade client had great luck putting the healthy foods at eye level and junk food in the lower rows. They also made chips and candy more expensive (and hopefully less enticing).
2. Offer Healthy Meeting Munchies
In lieu of donuts and pastries, encourage snacks like fresh fruits and veggies or trail mix. For lunchtime meetings, go for healthy soups or wraps filled with lean meats, vegetables, brown rice and beans. You might even consider offering incentives to administrative assistants and event coordinators who order healthy foods instead of pizza and sweets.
3. Re-think The Cafeteria
While some employees will always gravitate to the burger station, you can encourage better choices with a few smart strategies:
- Make healthy foods more accessible. Simply place what’s good for you front-and-center, and make less-healthy options more difficult to locate. This is how Google “nudged” employees in their New York office to eat 3.1 million fewer calories from M&M’s – in just seven weeks.
- Use labeling to indicate healthy choices. A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health cites that simple changes such as marking foods and beverages with red (least healthy), yellow (moderately healthy) and green (most healthy) labels – and making them more visible – encouraged cafeteria customers to buy more of the healthy options. Sales of red items dropped 14.1 percent, and sales of green items increased 5.3 percent.
- Reward employees for eating right. Offer a punch card – buy 5 healthy meals, get 1 free. Or, as we suggested with the vending machines, make healthy foods less expensive than junk food. One study showed that reducing the cost of fruits and vegetables by 50 percent increased fruit and salad purchases by 300 percent. Like it or not, money talks. The good news is that employees listen – and will choose wisely.
Still not convinced? Learn how two Limeade hospital clients – Stanford Children’s Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital – achieved this with great success.
4. Launch a Nutrition Challenge
Have a wellness program at your company? March is a great month to launch a nutrition challenge. Incentive your employees to evaluate their own eating habits and to make healthier choices. Here are a few ideas:
- Send out a quiz. It’s hard to change our habits if we aren’t aware that anything is wrong. Encourage employees to take this short quiz from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Provide resources. Don’t leave it up to a Google search. Promote healthy eating by giving employees quick resources to learn more about nutrition. Here are a few to start with:
- Launch a challenge. Launch a challenge that encourages employees to track days during the month where they made healthy food choices. While it’s important to eat healthy every day, a good starting place could be 20 days out of the month. Incentive employees to participate by offering points and prizes in your wellness program.
If you’re celebrating National Nutrition Month, we’d love to hear what you’re doing at your company to educate employees! Join the conversation in the comment section below.