Why is it important to eat healthy? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthy diet and nutrition can promote weight management, as well as reduce the risk of obesity, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.1 Employees that are healthier are also generally more productive, and are less likely to miss work due to illness.2
Meetings, events, and celebrations are a major part of your worksite food culture. Food and beverages served are often high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and salt, while low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources. Between donuts at meetings, fast food for lunch, and calorie-filled dishes at office parties, you may feel tempted to leave healthy eating by the wayside. Fortunately, you and your workplace can promote healthy eating by providing healthier food options.
When planning your workplace functions think of how you can change the unhealthy norm by providing healthier food and beverage choices, activity breaks and policies and practices that make the healthier choice the easier choice. Some examples of policies or environmental supports to promote healthy foods in the workplace include:
- Reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages in the workplace
- Replace candy bowls in public areas/conference rooms with fruit or nut bow
- Identify healthier food and beverage choices with signs or symbols (in cafeterias, at catered events, near vending machines)
- Establish a policy to discourage employees from bringing high-calorie foods (e.g., cakes, cookies, candy) to work to share
Wondering how to bring health food to workplace functions? Consider the following tips3,4:
- Instead of sugary sodas, bring unsweetened coffee, teas, seltzer water, or even 100% fruit/vegetable juices
- Offer pretzels or whole grain crackers instead of potato chips
- Substitute fried chips and cheese dip with baked tortillas and salsa
- A fruit or vegetable platter with dip is a great low-carbohydrate option
- Choose whole grain and lighter options, such as whole grain breads, low-fat cream cheese, and reduced-sugar jam
- Bring smaller sized whole-wheat bagels or muffins-they will help with portion control and food waste!
- Avoid sweetened canned fruits and opt for fresh or dried fruits instead
- Offer protein-rich foods, such as nuts or low-fat yogurt
Lunches, Dinners, and Potlucks
- Making a pasta dish? Use whole wheat pasta and a sauce that is not cream based. If you are making a pasta salad, use low-fat or fat-free dressings
- Provide salad dressing on the side to allow people to add their own amount
- Cooking a meat dish? Choose leaner cuts of meat, such as turkey or chicken breast
- Consider offering protein-rich vegetarian options, like beans, tofu, or quinoa
- Fresh fruit salad is a great replacement for candy!
- Choose frozen yogurt or sorbet over ice cream
- Substitute oil in baked good recipes with applesauce
- Practice portion control by serving smaller sized desserts, such as 2-bite cookies or brownies
For more healthy eating tips, you can also visit websites such as the CDC’s Healthier Worksite Initiative and the What’s Cooking? United States Department of Agriculture Mixing Bowl.5,6 Both websites offer great healthy eating recipes and resources that you can use at your next workplace function!
 Workplace Health Promotion: Nutrition. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/index.html
 Workplace Health Promotion: Increase Productivity. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/benefits/productivity.html
 Meeting Well: A Tool for Planning Healthy Meetings and Events. Retrieved from the American Cancer Society: http://www.acsworkplacesolutions.com/wpspdfs/meetingwell_guidebook_f251300.pdf
 Eat Smart North Carolina: Guidelines for Healthy Foods and Beverages at Meetings, Gatherings and Events. Retrieved from Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina: http://www.eatsmartmovemorenc.com/HealthyMeetingGuide/Texts/ES_Hlthy_Mtg_Guide_HiRez.pdf
 Healthier Worksite Initiative. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/hwi/toolkits/nutrition.htm
 What’s Cooking?: USDA Mixing Bowl. Retrieved from the United States Department of Agriculture: http://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-focus