Workers in today’s fast-paced society face daily stress in the workplace. Businesses should prioritise the well-being of their staff, with a particular emphasis on mental and nutritional health.
According to Monique Piderit, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa), employees typically spend a significant portion of their day at work, during which they consume the majority of their meals and snacks.
The workplace presents an excellent opportunity for companies to emphasise the significance of maintaining healthy and balanced lifestyles.
“Good nutrition underlines almost every aspect of health and wellness. We also need to consider the indirect costs for employers related to overweight and obesity, which could well overshadow the direct costs of nutrition interventions,” she says.
Boost your energy to get through the day at work
Piderit explains that studies have shown that nutrition-related worksite health promotion programmes have the potential to reduce obesity by 5-10%, thereby increasing labour productivity by 1-2% which is a great cost benefit for any company.
This helps integrate healthy living into the essence of corporate culture, adds Piderit.
Wellness increases worker engagement
Since more and more people are adopting healthier lives, Piderit argues that having a company that actively promotes wellness is beneficial to employees.
She says, “Research has shown that investing in preventative health measures like workplace wellness interventions which include nutrition greatly benefits both the employee and the company.”
Employers experience benefits such as reduced absenteeism, better productivity, reduced rates of illness, and more engaged employees. Healthy and well-nourished employees are naturally going to be more focused and energised and thus more efficient and productive, she explains.
Piderit suggests that three top ways to improve your nutrition at work are:
- Bring your own food to work to eat healthier and stay in control. Thus, you may avoid chemicals, salt, sugar, and bad fats and regulate portion size by knowing the components.
- If you have to buy lunch, pick healthy options. Avoid fast food and eat more fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, wholewheat sandwiches, wraps, brown rolls, and grilled white meat without visible fat or skin. Avoid packet sauces and condiments, which are heavy in salt, sugar, and lipids connected to “lifestyle” disorders.
- Hydrate well – if your company doesn’t provide water, bring your own. Limit sugary drinks intentionally. For a pleasant taste boost, add fruit or mint pieces to your water container.
What your body needs vs your taste buds
Ntokozo Kgopa, an Adsa spokesperson and registered dietitian, discusses some of the practical methods that businesses may promote healthy eating in the workplace.
She believes that having a staff canteen or on-site shop that provides balanced meals and healthy snacks is beneficial.
“Canteen staff must be trained in preparing and serving healthy meals.”
“It’s important they have knowledge of fresh ingredients, healthy cooking methods and portion sizes.”
According to Kgopa, the assistance of a dietitian may help to build a menu of nutritionally balanced meals that are in line with Mzansi food-based dietary standards and take into consideration that there is undoubtedly a range of food preferences and dietary requirements in any workforce.
Kgopa also suggests that:
- Registered dietitians and nutritionists can provide health seminars at corporate wellness days. This may involve anthropometric measures and type 2 diabetes testing for staff.
- Some organisations feature an employee wellness centre where employees can see doctors, dietitians, psychologists, social workers, and biokinetics. Workplace telehealth consultations are possible.
- Workplaces can promote healthy eating through TV screens, internal digital platforms, and dining or relaxation spaces. Such outlets can promote health awareness on calendar days.
- Provide sugar-free beverages and healthy snacks at office vending machines.
- More companies are providing exercise areas and time. Fun challenges or rewards might encourage business gym use. Corporate teams can enable and promote employee participation in outside sports.
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