Workplace Wellness: Supporting Employee Nutrition
Optimize Your Benefit Plan for the Best Credible Nutrition Support
In my Dietitian practice, I often find out that one of the key reasons people don’t consult a dietician for a nutrition or food-related health issue is that dietitian services are not covered under their health insurance. Food and nutrition play a central role in a person’s health, productivity and overall well-being. Poor dietary habits don’t only cause problems with an individual’s physical health, poor nutrition also impacts an employee’s work performance:
- Reduced cognitive ability
- Decreased mental effectiveness
- Lower energy levels
- Reduced ability to think clearly
- Decreased ability to perform your job effectively
- Higher levels of stress and depression
- Decreased productivity
Employer benefit plans that include insurance coverage for dietitian services are important for a healthy and productive workforce. As a practicing dietitian for over 20 years and a member of the Dietitians of Canada Employee Health Benefits Advisory Committee, I work with companies and HR professionals to address the links between diet and productivity, and what employers can do to improve the health of employees to the benefit of the workplace. In addition to providing workplace wellness programs and counselling to companies via Health Stand Nutriton, I consult with HR professionals on how to support employee nutrition.
Diet has a direct impact on employee productivity and workplace performance. It’s not just how much work an employee does, it’s the quality of their work. Studies have shown that factors like low blood sugars and imbalanced meals lead to poor concentration.
But who’s responsibility is it to improve employee nutrition?
Research confirms employees want better nutrition. But for people in the workforce, much of their day is spent at work where choices may be limited. Individual responsibility and planning is therefore essential for nutrition initiatives to succeed. Access to credible wellness information and practical healthy eating resources that takes the science of nutrition and translates this into everyday meal planning solutions is key.
Registered Dietitians can help with onsite and online education initiatives and in-person and virtual nutrition counselling in topic areas such as:
- Meal planning for home and on the go
- Optimizing energy, productivity and mental health especially during high-stress times
- Corporate travel, eating in off-site camps/lodges and eating out
- Managing shift work and jobs requiring high stamina and safety
- Weight concerns, emotional eating and eating disorders
- Women’s health issues due to pregnancy and menopause
- Heart health, high cholesterol and high blood pressure
- Diabetes and blood sugar concerns
- Chronic disease and illness
- And more
Unfortunately, many Canadian employer benefit plans do not include dietitian services, making this an additional cost and related stress for employees who want to improve their nutrition and health at home and at work.
Large Study Finds that Workplace Foods Contribute to Unhealthy Eating
Despite their good intentions, many people find that their jobs actually sabotage their commitment to healthy eating. While at work 30, 35, 40 or more hours each week, employees have limited options to eat healthily and are often tempted by unhealthy food choices at work. A recent study determined that unhealthy foods provided by the workplace contribute to unhealthy eating; and
“that nearly a quarter of study participants obtained food from work at least once a week and that the average weekly calories obtained was almost 1,300… Since we found that a lot of the foods obtained by employees were free, employers may also want to consider healthy meeting policies to encourage healthy food options at meetings and social events.”
Vending machines filled with candy bars and sodas, meetings offering free donuts and snacks, and lunch and break rooms with limited food storage and preparation areas can make it difficult for employees to stick to their nutrition goals.
How HR Professionals Can Support Employee Nutrition
As a Registered Dietitian, I advocate taking personal responsibility for your dietary choices. At the same time, we can’t ignore the fact that most people rely on our workplace for income and to provide important benefits, including health insurance. Human Resource professionals are charged with managing employee relations and advocating for workplace changes that benefit both employees and the employer.
When employee health and nutrition are not maximized, employers have higher health benefit costs and experience more employee absenteeism, safety concerns and lost productivity. Studies repeatedly show that healthier, less stressed out employees are happier, more creative and ultimately more productive.
Here are 3 things HR professionals can do to support employee nutrition:
- Start Onsite Workplace Nutrition Initiatives
While your company may have a general workplace wellness program, what about a specific workplace nutrition program? A Registered Dietitian specializing in corporate health and wellness can help identify opportunities to improve the work environment including:
- Personal nutrition counselling
- Tasty, fun and healthy menu options for meetings and events
- Productivity consulting
- Workplace diet and lifestyle initiatives such as nutrition challenges, simple healthy recipe shares and more that promote a healthy lifestyl
Research shows that when employers provide support for eating healthier, getting more exercise and becoming emotionally healthy, employees respond positively with higher productivity.
- Provide Online Nutrition Initiatives
At Health Stand Nutrition, we provide a variety of employee nutrition services that can be accessed online from any location at flexible times:
- Dietitian taught and supported Online Nutrition Course: Pursuit of Healthiness to help your employees improve health, rock meal planning and move towards their personal best weight (still eating the foods they love).
- Virtual Dietitian Nutrition Counselling for preventative health, productivity and help for medical issues
- Free Weekly Sound Bites Newsletter for the latest nutrition tips, articles, videos and recipes by the Dietitians on our team
- Optimize Your Benefit Plan for the Best Credible Nutrition Services
Check your insurance plan and chat with your benefits consultant to ensure your employees have access to the most reliable nutrition expertise. Registered Dietitians (RD’s) are university trained and the only nutrition practitioners that are licensed and regulated (held to ethical standards of practice).
Titles such as Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, RONP, RNCP, ROHP, RHN, CNP are not the same as a Registered Dietitian and do not indicate the person is a provincially regulated health professional. These are often used by those who have completed much less intensive privately owned training programs that vary in length and rigor.
To ensure your employees have access to regulated nutrition experts check your insurance plan and chat with your benefits provider to ensure Dietitians are listed under your benefit plan. Employees can be sure they are hiring a Registered Dietitian by looking for RD or PDt (DtP in French) behind their name. Dietitian is a protected title, just like physician, nurse and pharmacist.
For more information on optimizing your benefit plans check out these resources from Dietitians of Canada here.
Learn More About the Link Between Diet and Work Performance
Check out some of my recent popular articles on workplace wellness nutrition:
- How Can Virtual Dietitians Help Employee Health?
- Summer Workplace Productivity
- Employees Are What They Eat: Corporate Employee Nutrition Programs
- Nutrition Often Neglected in Workplace Wellness
- 5 Strategies to Increase Teleworker Participation in Wellness Programs
- Encouraging Healthy Habits Can Save Employers Time and Money
- Workplace Health & Culture: Fueling Productive & Happy Employees with Good Nutrition
- Nutrition for Shift Workers
- Good Health is Good for Business: Boost productivity by providing healthy meals at conferences and events
Looking for more corporate wellness and workplace nutrition information? Subscribe to our free quarterly workplace wellness newsletter: EnerTHRIVE! Workplace Nutrition Newsletter.
Check out our Workplace Wellness Scorecard to find out how your workplace rates with nutrition.