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Why healthy eating in the workplace is important
The Canadian Community Health Survey found that almost 60% of Hamilton adults were overweight or obese in 2007 and 2008. Overweight and obesity can significantly affect the health and well-being of employees.
People spend a significant amount of their time at work and have at least one meal and some snacks during that time, so encouraging healthy eating in the workplace helps employees avoid chronic disease, disability and the associated costs which impact the employee, the employer and the community.
How to encourage healthy eating in your workplace
Many of the workplace factors that influence food choices are outside of employees’ control. Here are some strategy and policy options your workplaces can implement to encourage healthy eating.
1. Supportive environments
A supportive environment is much more than making healthy food choices available to employees. To support employees, you should provide surroundings and conditions that foster healthy eating. Consider the following for your workplace:
- Make healthy foods available to all employees, on all shifts, in all venues such as the cafeteria, vending machines and during meetings and events.
- Promote healthy food choices in places where you sell food. Consider displaying healthy foods at eye level in vending machines and in highly visible spots in the cafeteria.
- Ensure employees have enough time for meal breaks in clean, inviting areas away from their workspace.
- Provide a kitchen with amenities such as a sink, refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, kettle, hot water dispenser, water fountain and an ice dispenser.
- Avoid using food as a reward for employees or for fundraising in the workplace.
2. Healthy eating policies
Consider developing and implementing policies that support healthy eating. Remember to promote your policy to employees and be consistent with policy implementation to ensure success. Consider the following policy options:
- Provide healthy food choices (when you require food) at all workplace functions, including meetings and events.
- Ensure that healthy food is available to employees working all shifts, if you provide food.
- Accommodate dietary needs or restrictions when you organize workplace functions.
- Provide healthy food and beverage choices at a comparable or lower cost than other less healthy choices.
- Provide locally grown and produced food, when possible.
- Do not sell non-nutritious foods for fundraisers (e.g., bake sales, cookie and chocolate bar fundraising programs).
- Provide municipal tap water for staff at all times.
- Provide safe and clean food storage and preparation areas.
- Provide access for employees to healthy eating resources and programs such as a Registered Dietitian through Employee and Family Assistance programs.
3. Access to healthy eating resources
If your workplace is not ready to create a supportive environment or policy, make sure employees know where to find reliable nutrition information for themselves and their families. This may create buy-in for healthy eating supportive environments and policies in your workplace. Consider:
- Providing employees with healthy eating information on bulletin boards, in a pamphlet rack and on the company intranet
- Organizing healthy eating challenges
- Promoting online education and skill building opportunities.
Toolkit request: You can request the Healthy Eating at Work - Importance of Healthy Eating in the Workplace toolkit by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted and reproduced from the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Durham Region Health Department.
For more information about healthy workplaces, contact:
Phone: 905-546-2424 Ext. 3634
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