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All too often, busy work schedules mean getting caught in an unhealthy eating slump – skipping breakfast, snacking on sugary treats to keep our energy levels up, and regularly ordering fatty takeaways for dinner thanks to little time for meal planning. Such diets, coupled with the health consequences associated with a sedentary lifestyle, pose a serious threat to our health and wellbeing.

Healthy Eating Week is the perfect opportunity to recalibrate our eating habits and incorporate more nutritious foods into our diets. Organised by the British Nutrition Foundation, this year, Healthy Eating Week is running from 10th to 14th June 2024. The aim of this initiative is to promote healthy eating and drinking habits across our workplaces, schools, and other centres of community. At the heart of this, this awareness week reminds us to prioritise eating extra portions of fruits or vegetables, fit more movement into our days, focus on staying hydrated, and remember to eat more fibre-rich foods.

Are you and your employees ready to ‘Give it a Go’ this June?

The Importance of Healthy Eating: Key Benefits for the Workplace

Healthy eating means nourishing your body with a balanced diet – i.e., a diet that incorporates carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals in appropriate proportions. It also means limiting our sodium intake and avoiding unnatural food dyes, processed foods, and excessive sugar – which can all negatively impact our health.

A balanced diet can boost both your employees’ mental and physical health by:

  • Increasing their energy levels: Unhealthy foods such as processed meats, sugary desserts, and deep-fried snacks are harder for our bodies to digest. In order to do so, we have to expend extra energy on complex digestive processes, making it difficult to focus and stay alert in the workplace. In contrast, fruits and vegetables are easier to digest and contain vitamins and minerals that can strengthen our immune systems and protect you and your team from illness and infection. A balanced diet thus reduces the chances of getting ill and lowers the risk of physical health-related absenteeism (a habitual absence from work due to unplanned circumstances), which can have significant impacts on efficiency, productivity, and success.
  • Improving their cognitive functioning: Foods rich in omega-3, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds, can improve brain function and boost memory. These foods support brain health by improving neurotransmitter functions, leading to happier moods and reduced feelings of anxiety or stress. A study by the British Journal of Health and Psychology found a sample of 405 working adults reported higher levels of creativity, curiosity, and wellbeing after only 13 days of increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

With more energy, reduced stress and anxiety, and higher levels of creativity and curiosity, you and your employees will be better prepared to handle the demands of the work day with resilience, strength, and better problem-solving abilities!

Getting the Most Out of Healthy Eating Week at Your Workplace: Strategies for Long-Lasting Benefits

Now that we’ve explored the benefits healthy eating can offer you and your employees let’s focus on operationalising the central objective of Healthy Eating Week: promoting nutrition and good eating habits across your organisation. In this section, we’ll be discussing some key strategies you can implement across your teams, alongside some tips and ideas on how to tailor these strategies to the specific needs of your workplace.

Make sure healthy food is available and easily accessible

‘Nutritional nudging’ is a concept from behavioural psychology whereby the accessibility and presentation of healthier food options can nudge employees towards making healthier choices while still giving them the freedom to make their own decisions. It helps combat ‘cake-tray culture’ in the workplace, where employees grab cakes, biscuits, and other energy-dense sweet treats lying around in break rooms and shared office kitchens for the boost they need during a busy working day. Nutritional nudging can be done by:

  1. Having healthy snack stations located around the office. Some healthy snack ideas include nuts, fresh or dried fruit, brown rice cakes, roasted chickpeas, apples and peanut butter, granola, yoghurts, or edamame.
  2. Substituting crisps and sweets in the office break room or snack stations with more nutritious snacking options such as dark chocolate-covered nuts, baked veggie chips, or popcorn. These can help employees satisfy their cravings without overindulging in highly salty, sugary, or fatty foods and thus compromising their health.
  3. Opting for healthier office catering plans at discounted rates. For example, if you have an office canteen, you could work with your catering team to improve your offering of nutritionally balanced and tasty lunch options. This might include a salad and soup bar, swapping white bread for whole grain, offering more vegetarian/vegan foods, and ensuring every meal available has a healthy balance of macro and micronutrients. The availability of delicious and healthy hot food at reasonable prices in the office itself makes it easy to eat well, preventing you and your team from nipping out to grab fast food during lunch.

Make sure you and your employees are properly hydrated

Hydration is vital to staying healthy in the workplace. When we’re dehydrated, our energy levels plummet, and we’re vulnerable to headaches, irritability, and fatigue. You can remind your team to drink plenty of water by:

  1. Setting up Hydration Stations with water dispensers and taps in centrally designated areas like meeting spaces, break rooms, the kitchen, or near desks/workspaces. These can act as visual reminders to jog your team’s memory, giving them the nudge they need to refill their water bottles and have a drink of water every time they enter the office, arrive for a meeting, or step out for a break.
  2. Offer flavoured water options to counteract fizzy drink consumption. Providing flavoured water infusions and additions like lemon, mint, and cucumber slices can make it much easier for us all to drink more water!

Adapt and adjust office policies to make mindful eating easier

A few facilitating factors, such as more flexible schedules and making available resources on nutritional information, could encourage and allow your employees to embrace healthier lifestyles and focus more on their diets and eating habits. As an employer and/or manager, you can help facilitate healthy lifestyle changes by adapting office policies to encourage and allow:

  1. Regular lunch breaks: When we’re in the middle of a busy working day, we all know how easy it is to work through our lunch break, glued to our desks while we absentmindedly refuel on whatever’s to hand – a sweet treat from a vending machine in the office, or perhaps a pastry from the café down the road. Often, these types of foods contain excessive amounts of sodium, fats, sugar, preservatives, or other harmful artificial ingredients. Encouraging your team to take their full lunch hours (especially in the middle of a busy day!) and eat away from their desks can help them make more conscious, mindful food choices that are healthier and properly support their bodies and minds for the rest of the work day. Not only this, but taking half an hour to an hour out to eat lunch mindfully can lower stress levels and help you and your team return to your work feeling calmer and more focused.
  2. Food-Focused Activities: Encourage healthy eating habits for your employees by incorporating food-focused activities such as team lunches, potlucks, and nutritional challenges into the office weekly schedule. For instance, you could have a sugar-free baking challenge or a homemade lunch potluck to encourage bringing in healthier lunches. By sampling each other’s food, it’s easy to gain inspiration. Similarly, you could share easy and healthy lunch ideas and recipes such as stir-fry, acai bowls, or chopped salads.
  3. Flexible workloads and hours: Flexible work hours can make it easier for employees to plan and cook nutritious meals and snacks that fuel their working weeks. You should also encourage your team to leave the office at the right time. It’s vital that we all have good work-life boundaries that give us the time we need to fit in self-care, exercise, and eating well around our jobs.
  4. Nutritional guidance and information: At Thrive4Life, our services can help you and your employees understand the nutritional habits and practices needed in order to support a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
    • Our Employee Health and Wellbeing Discovery Hub contains an ever-expanding digital library of articles on various categories relating to our physical and mental health, including nutrition.
    • Similarly, our monthly Health and Wellbeing ePublications could offer your team fascinating, up-to-date, useful content and advice brought to you by our researchers and writers to help you keep your team healthy and happy. Every month, we send our subscribers two articles which could be on any topic relating to our health and wellbeing, including nutrition and why eating well is so important.
    • If you’re looking for events which can spread the importance of nutrition (and other pillars of our health and wellbeing), our monthly Health and Wellbeing Webinars are brought to you by leading medical consultants and those at the forefront of the field of health and wellbeing. Past nutrition-focused webinars have included talks on how to shape a balanced diet that works for you and how to stay a healthy weight with Caroline Hanna, registered nutritionist, writer, and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef.

A 2021 study by CEO Monthly found that 6% of UK employees skip lunch due to unmanageable workloads and inflexible lunch hours. In the NHS alone, this amounts to about 84,000 people! The strategies mentioned in this blog post can help employees take time for themselves and eat a nutritious lunch, helping to keep them happy, engaged, and productive at work.

In Summary

Healthy Office Meal

By raising awareness about the importance of healthy eating habits and prioritising the maintenance of a balanced diet, Healthy Eating Week reminds us how important it is to fuel our bodies and replenish our minds with the nutrients we need to thrive at work. As we spend hours problem-solving, participating in meetings, and focusing on hitting deadlines and KPIs, it’s essential that we all stay hydrated, keep our energy levels topped up

with energising snacks, and refuel with nutritious hot meals that support our bodies and minds, helping us stay focused and active. We hope that the strategies and tips outlined in this blog post will help you embrace the spirit of Healthy Eating Week and implement strategies that promote healthy eating across your organisation to keep your workplace thriving!

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