Healthy eating in the workplaceThere is still a huge gap between current nutrition habits and the impact of poor nutrition on health and performance.

NHS figures in 2017 revealed that three quarters of adults are failing to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. And yet poor eating habits are thought to increase the likelihood of poor productivity by as much as 66%. According to some figures, they cost UK employers £17 billion.

When you consider that a study by Imperial College London in 2017 suggested that adults should really be eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to keep healthy, it’s no wonder productivity across UK workplaces is suffering.

What this means to employers striving for an effective wellbeing strategy? An opportunity to make a difference which are still largely untapped.

What is nutrition-centred wellbeing (NCW)?

Employee nutritionWe believe that most wellbeing programmes are failing to take advantage of the quick, tangible wins nutrition can achieve. Even if healthy eating gets a nod, it’s rarely approached in a purposeful way – a workshop here, a free fruit offering there. It’s not enough to truly make a difference. And yet, implemented well, nutrition programmes can offer widely untapped potential. This is why every employer should be asking the question: “How nutrition smart is my workplace?”

NCW is a strategic approach to wellbeing which aims to achieve measurable outcomes. A NCW programme addresses eating habits first, by supporting employees to make small adjustments that are practical for working life and will achieve quick wins. This creates a solid foundation for introducing further aspects of wellbeing such as exercise and mindfulness.

What are the potential benefits?

  1. Results – fast

By making small adjustments to daily eating habits, people can see marked changes, physical as well as mental, in a short space of time. Achieving results doesn’t involve a complete overhaul. We’ve encountered many clients who, simply by adding more protein to their breakfast, felt more alert during the morning, kept sugar cravings at bay and in turn, this contributed to a trimmer waistline (and happy feelings).

Such a change involves no sacrifice, no unrealistic call on willpower, and the person would probably say they were thoroughly enjoying both the new breakfast experience and the positive effects it was having. Will they continue with this habit? Our interviews with programme participants after a year or longer indicate they will.

  1. Small adjustments

We have to eat on a daily basis, so why not focus on fine-tuning a habit that takes place already, 3, 4, 5 times a day? This doesn’t mean that a focus on exercise or mental health is a waste of time, but wouldn’t it make sense to begin by adjusting eating habits first, which in turn will provide more energy to exercise and a more balanced brain chemistry?

I’m not saying that wellbeing begins and ends with nutrition. Simply that it makes a lot of sense to begin with healthy eating, do it really well, create tangible results and build on this with further habits that require motivation and effort.

  1. All round health improvements

People often think of nutrition in terms of weight loss but it’s capable of much more. What we eat has a direct impact on our sleep, our mental wellbeing, our energy and productivity, our ability to cope with stress. And by influencing one person’s diet, we often find that what they appreciate most, is how it’s benefited their family and loved ones because they’ve brought the new habits home.

Keep in touch:

We’ve launched the Nutrition-centred Wellbeing network for those involved in wellbeing initiatives to share insights and experiences around nutrition in the workplace. Join here and receive our NCW toolkit containing:

  • A monthly seasonal health campaign poster for your workplace
  • The nutrition centred wellbeing calendar and 40 page report
  • Unbeatable offers for you to trial the NCW packages with your employees
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