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Healthy eating in the workplace

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of adults in England were classed as being overweight or obese in 2015 (PHE, 2017). Each year poor diet causes around 70,000 premature deaths. Younger generations are becoming obese at an earlier age, and are staying obese into adulthood.  It is a troubling issue that concerns many employers.   

Cost of obesity to businesses

Obesity has a serious impact on economic development. The overall cost of obesity to the wider economy is estimated at £27 billion (PHE, 2017).

From a business perspective:

  • Obese employees take more sickness absence leave than workers of a healthy weight.  On average, this equates to four extra sick days per year (NICE, 2012).  

  • Diet can affect day to day performance and productivity. Low and fluctuating blood sugar levels can shorten attention span and can slow information processing. 

  • But eating regular, well-balanced meals and drinking plenty of water as part of a healthy lifestyle can help employees to maintain their overall health, wellbeing and productivity.

  • Employees in good health can be three times more productive.

For more statistics on obesity and the food environment, please see the infographic below:

Ways to encourage healthier eating in your workplace

We actually consume a third of our daily calories at work. This means businesses have an exciting opportunity to support and encourage healthier food and drink choices. 

Ways to encourage healthy eating:

  • Have a healthy eating policy in place. Ensure all staff are aware of it.

  • Provide staff with access to a clean eating area, with the use of a fridge, kettle and microwave.

  • Encourage (and provide) healthier food choices that are lower in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and higher in fibre, fruit and vegetables. Don't forget about vending machines or visiting sandwich vans.

  • Promote national campaigns and guidance around healthy eating. Such as the Government’s Eatwell Guide, the Change4Life campaign and the OneYou website.

Resources to promote healthy eating in the workplace

Take a look at these useful guides, websites and campaigns to help encourage healthier eating in your workplace:

Produced by Public Health England, and updated in February 2017, this toolkit offers practical advice on how to make catering affordable, healthier and more sustainable. It’s useful to all businesses that have canteens, vending machines, or even mobile catering services, like sandwich vans, visiting their organisation.

Business in the Community has partnered with Public Health England to produce this simple and informative toolkit. It aims to help employers of all sizes to achieve a healthier working environment, by encouraging staff to eat well and move more.

The British Heart Foundation’s website contains a wealth of information and resources on healthy eating. Take a look at their 'dieting myths', facts about 'food labelling' and there's even a yummy 'healthy recipe finder'! 

When we're out and about it's easy to eat more than we should – on average we're eating an extra 200-300 calories every day! 

Why not encourage your employees to follow the simple tip of aiming for 400-600-600 to help them stay on track at mealtimes. That's around 400 calories for breakfast, 600 calories for lunch and 600 for dinner – leaving room for a couple of healthy snacks and drinks. It's all part of a healthy balanced diet of 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 calories for men.

This website contains information on a range of topics related to eating healthily, such as ‘how to shelve sugar', 'eat less salt' and 'cut back on fat'. It also has some great tools to help people to eat healthier, such as the One You ‘Easy Meals’ app, if you’re in need of some cooking inspiration!

The Eatwell Guide covers the Government’s recommendations on eating healthily and achieving a balanced diet.

For your employees with families, this great website gives loads of friendly and informative tips on healthy eating.  Including: food facts, delicious family recipe ideas and fun activities the whole family can do together – all inspired by some much loved Disney characters! 

Don’t forget to download the Change4Life ‘Food Scanner’ app for free, to find out how much sugar, sat fat, salt and calories are really inside your food and drink!

Find out about a range of issues related to healthy eating. Such as top tips on getting your 5 A Day, info on takeaways and some excellent weight loss resources like the NHS 12-week diet and exercise plan.

The Health and Wellbeing Planner that is found on Staffordshire Connects is an excellent tool that your employees can use to find local (Staffordshire) and national advice, information and support. It covers a range of health and wellbeing related issues, such as healthy eating, alcohol, mental health, physical activity and stopping smoking.   

They can use the Health and Wellbeing Planner to help them make some positive, healthy changes to their lives, by identifying what they want to achieve, what they can do differently to achieve their goal, and understanding what advice and support will help them along the way.

Take a look at the Physical Activity in the Workplace page for ideas on how to support your employees to improve their physical activity levels, as part of a healthier lifestyle. This will complement any efforts that you’re undertaking on healthy eating.

Get in touch

Let us know what you’re doing on healthy eating in your workplace by emailing workplace health  

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