The 360 degree approach to supporting nutrition at work

October 19, 2023

Dr. Fiona Geaney, Founder and CEO of Food Choice and Adjunct Lecturer with the School of Public Health in UCC, explores the shifting workplace environment and shares her advice to employers on promoting better nutrition and lifestyle choices for their employees.

The workplace environment post-pandemic

Remote and hybrid working has become the norm for many organisations leaving employers, HR and health & wellbeing professionals to explore new strategies to support employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s essential that workplace health & wellbeing remains a fixed agenda item at all business strategy meetings. This way we can move away from an ad hoc support that responds to a problem to one that underpins business growth with a culture that protects and monitors employee health placing equal importance on nutrition, mental health, employee safety and physical activity.

Over the past 3 years, it has been challenging for some organisations to offer the same nutrition support to all employees, as some may work from home while others are in the office. However, we have worked closely with our clients and believe that there is a practical solution for all.

Practical strategies to support better nutrition and lifestyle choices

Informed by our Food Choice research, there are 3 main strategies to consider when deciding on how best to support employees to eat well – Nutrition Education, Individual Nutrition Coaching and Healthy Food at Work. Your current workplace culture will determine the right strategies for your organisation, depending on many factors including your employees working location (home/onsite/hybrid), type of work, employees’ preference, budget availability and available employee health data.

  1. Nutrition Education:
    1. Prepare a Workplace Health & Wellbeing calendar and identify a theme for each month. Include one or more nutrition events or resources that are aligned to this theme. For example, the theme for November could be immunity – planned activities may include an on-site Nutrition & Immunity Masterclass and a supporting ‘Getting Winter Ready’ recipe booklet.
    2. Adjust the focus and budget depending on where your employees work;
      • If most employees work from home or hybrid, concentrate on planning flexible online activities that employees can engage with at a time that suits them, such as online nutrition programmes, virtual nutrition training workshops, webinars both live and recorded, whistle-stop sessions (15 mins long), key messages shared through global email, tip sheets, recipes and digital cook-along sessions.
      • If most employees are on-site - in person Masterclasses, interactive training workshops, food demonstrations and fun food tasting sessions work well! Record these sessions, where possible, for employees that may be working from home or provide summary content, so all employees are included.
      • Ask for employee input before choosing the activities. Monitor attendance, engagement, impact and ask for employee feedback!
  2. Individual Nutrition Coaching: Both online and in-person individual nutrition coaching can be an effective tool to encourage self-care, resulting in sustainable dietary improvements and a greater impact on overall health status and wellbeing. For example, when employees register for the 6-Week Food Choice Nutrition Programme, our registered nutritionists and dietitians provide tailored guidance, share behavioural change techniques to create a personal, practical and achievable plan that works for each employee. Employees receive bespoke tools to empower them to reach their nutrition goals, including individual baseline nutrition review, weekly accountability logs, easy to prepare recipes, useful food choice tips and practical guides on portion size, caffeine or alcohol consumption.
  3. Healthy Eating at Work: Adding healthier options that are lower in saturated fat, sugar and salt, monitoring portion size, access to drinking water, increased availability of fruit and vegetables, recipe analysis or menu labelling (calorie, traffic lights, allergens, nutrition claims) are all suitable methods to improve the food offer at work. For inconsistent occupancy and remote working organisations, other popular options include coffee docks, micro markets, healthy vending, lunch or snack delivery to remote employees or food gift cards!

Many of us consume one if not two of our main meals while at work. We have a responsibility to support each other to eat well in all working locations. Build on where you are today. Small positive changes in our nutrition can have a lasting impact on our health, wellbeing and productivity!

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About Fiona

Dr Fiona Geaney is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Food Choice and also holds an Adjunct Lectureship position with the School of Public Health in University College Cork. Over the past 10 years, Dr Fiona Geaney has published leading workplace nutrition research from the School of Public Health, University College Cork. Dr Geaney holds a BSc in Nutritional Sciences, a Master of Public Health and PhD in Public Health Nutrition. Fiona is a Registered Nutritionist (Public Health) with the Association for Nutrition. Fiona is a busy mom to Juliet and Rose and has her mother to thank for her love of food as she is a chef! Please contact f.geaney@foodchoiceatwork.com for any queries on Food Choice!

About Food Choice

Food Choice are workplace health advocates who develop and implement scientifically validated nutritional health programmes to support employees to eat well to improve their overall health and wellbeing and to reduce their risk of diet related diseases. Healthy dietary patterns can help to boost our morale, engagement and productivity at work, while reducing our risk of developing diet related diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes! Our team of registered nutritionists and dietitians work in partnership with local and global organisations to tailor their programmes according to the needs of each organisation. We aim to support all employees equally and provide comprehensive reports with measurable outcomes for clients to demonstrate the real positive impact for their organisation and their people.