Every company wants a healthy and productive workforce, and there’s growing awareness of the benefits of including nutrition in employee wellness programmes. Without this focus, the workplace can inadvertently foster unhealthy eating habits. Employees under work and time pressures can find their food choices are limited by what’s available to them at or near their workplace. It can be all too easy to grab nutrition-poor take-aways and snacks for an energy boost to get you through the workday.
Monique Piderit, a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) says, “Employees spend a third of the day at work and most of our meals and snacks are consumed in this time. This makes the workplace an ideal, targeted opportunity for companies to drive the importance of healthy and balanced lifestyles. Good nutrition underlines almost every aspect of health and wellness. We also need to consider the indirect costs for employers related to overweight and obesity, which could well overshadow the direct costs of nutrition interventions. Studies have shown that nutrition-related worksite health promotion programmes have the potential to reduce obesity by 5-10%, thereby increasing labour productivity by 1-2% which is a great cost benefit for any company.”
Companies that recognise the value of including nutrition in their corporate wellness programmes employ a range of strategies that can improve the availability of healthy foods, provide nutrition education and provide nutrition-based interventions. All of this helps to integrate healthy living into the essence of corporate culture.
Ntokozo Kgopa, who is also an ADSA spokesperson and Registered Dietitian, highlights some of the practical ways companies promote healthy eating in the workplace. She says that it helps to have a staff canteen or on-site shop offering balanced meals and healthy snacks. “Canteen staff must be trained in preparing and serving healthy meals,” Ntokozo says. “It’s important they have knowledge of fresh ingredients, healthy cooking methods and portion sizes. A dietitian can help to create a menu of nutritionally balanced meals that are in line with the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines and take into account that there is inevitably a range of food preferences and dietary requirements in any workforce.”
Ntokozo also suggests that:
Wellness boosts employee engagement
Monique points out that more and more people are embracing healthy lifestyles, and therefore employees find value in a workplace that actively fosters wellness. She says, “Research has shown that investing in preventative health measures like workplace wellness interventions which include nutrition result in great benefits to both the employee and the company. Employers experience benefits such as reduced absenteeism, better productivity, reduced rates of illness, and more engaged employees. Healthy and well-nourished employees are naturally going to be more focused and energised and thus more efficient and productive.”
Of course, individuals are the ones who are in the driving seat when it comes to their personal health and wellness.
Three top ways to improve your nutrition at work are:
In celebration of Corporate Wellness Week, 3 to 7 July 2023, here are some inspiring ADSA recipes for easy, healthy workday snacks: