10 Tips for Better Nutrition in the Workplace

by Kelsey Horst and Margaret Stojak
OSF HealthCare

Ways to encourage healthy eating options at work ... one step at a time. 

Integrating healthy behaviors into the workplace can affect how you feel from day to day and through the years. As a professional, you make choices to achieve success—and you can do the same with creating a healthy lifestyle. Follow these tips to start small and build up your body with better nutrients. 

  1. Be a role model. Provide the leaders of your company with health and wellness resources. Show them the benefits of a healthy team. Develop a wellness committee so you can work with leadership on how to make wellness attainable. By focusing on healthy eating, you may encourage other employees to do the same. 
     
  2. Initiate an educational campaign. Use bulletin boards and displays to promote resources for healthy eating and physical activity. Host a “lunch and learn” or workshops to discuss healthy habits and hot topics for nutrition. Post information in areas where employees congregate so they can learn more about beverages, sugar and healthy weight.

    Encourage a new nutrition focus each month. There are plenty of health topics and monthly campaigns that can help provide materials, such as Heart Month in February or Nutrition Month in March. Encourage healthy decisions by running a nutrition challenge with prizes—and challenge different teams or departments to join in!
     
  3. Encourage health in the cafeteria. Consider offering pre-portioned meal or snack options that contain protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Dress up the salad bar, put it where it will be noticed, and make the display visually appealing to increase consumption. Use the “stop light system” by labeling foods with green, yellow and red depending on their health value—this can make healthy choices easier as employees will be able to clearly see the health value of their meal selections. 
     
  4. Place healthy options in vending machines. Include snacks with 200 calories or less, 2.5 grams of fiber and five grams of protein. Be sure to promote those healthy options by putting them in direct line of sight. 
     
  5. Provide financial incentives. Consider equal or better pricing for healthier foods, or provide a discounted option. In one study, increasing fruit and vegetable availability by 30 percent while reducing the cost by 50 percent caused fruit and salad purchases to increase by 300 percent. The same study revealed an 80- to 93-percent increase in low-fat snacks. 
     
  6. Promote a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. Adding color to the diet provides a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients the body needs to be the best it can be. Spotlight fruits and vegetables that are in season with recipe cards, social media, table taste-tester events and newsletters. Explore localharvest.org and get to know (or team up with) your local farmer’s market.
     
  7. Create a hydration station. Highlight water fountains or bottle-filling stations and encourage reusable water bottles in team meetings and huddles. Staying hydrated is vital, considering our body is composed of more than 70 percent water. Aim for a goal of 64 ounces of water each day. If water seems boring, try infusing it with fruit! Use fruits like strawberries, watermelons, cucumbers, lemon, lime or berries to add flavor.
     
  8. Encourage healthy foods at meetings. Lead with healthy food options, and avoid the sugar crash when selecting food options for meetings. Select a catering company experienced with nutrition-conscious workplaces and product lines—a preselected list of healthy options can be helpful when ordering. Prioritize grilled, baked, poached, roasted, braised or broiled options when selecting entrees, and offer fruits and veggies with all meal options. Plan to serve whole or cut fruit, vegetables and hummus, or unsalted nuts as an option.

    Looking for more ideas? Download the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity’s Healthy Meeting Toolkit at cspinet.org/resource/healthy-meeting-toolkit for additional resources. Along with nutrition, encourage employees and coworkers to break up sitting time with standing, walking or light stretching to combat the effects of sedentary activity and complement healthy food choices.
     
  9. Host healthy potlucks. Encourage whole and healthy food among your team celebrations! Have employees bring their favorite healthy dish for a potluck. For a little competition, host a healthy recipe contest to increase the variety of healthy recipes among team members. Choose a theme such as taco salad, tailgate, soup season or brunch, and designate fruits and vegetables on the sign-up sheet. It can be easy to keep grazing on yummy potluck items. Provide small plates, bowls and cups to encourage moderated portions.
     
  10. Don’t dump. Have you ever brought a dish leftover from a birthday, event or holiday to work for your team? Dumping extra food off for other people to eat can dramatically increase caloric intake throughout the week. Studies show that about 1,300 calories a week come from free food at work, which can have a large impact on your energy balance and weight gain over time. Instead, try taking that extra food to someone who may need it. Connect with local organizations that provide food access to those in need. iBi

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