Dietitian Approved Workplace Wellness Nutrition Challenges Print

Healthy eating challenges for your corporate wellness program

Registered Dietitian Corporate Wellness Nutrition Challenges

Study after study proves that when employees eat better, they feel better, their overall health is better and their workplace productivity increases. Workplace wellness is a win-win – employees feel better, and companies have a happier workforce, increased productivity and lower health care costs. When people are at their desk and they’re hungry, they tend to grab whatever is easiest and closest – not what is healthiest. Emotional, mindless eating due to stress or tiredness is an easy habit to acquire – and a hard one to break.

But how do you bring healthy eating habits into the workplace – without the social stigma of body size shaming or pressuring employees to participate? To get employee buy-in, let employees organize and manage the challenge – with HR’s support. Usually a challenge that is long enough to create some momentum, is the most likely to succeed. While you may have heard that it takes 21 days to change a habit, research has demonstrated it typically takes 66 days to anchor a new eating, drinking and exercise habit (ranging between 18-254 days).  While a 30-day nutrition challenge can get things started, longer challenges will optimally create more long-term results that stick.

3 Keys to Making your Workplace Nutrition Challenge a Success:

Most important is information. An informed employee is the most likely to participate in a nutrition challenge because they understand the benefits and want to make the change, but need help.

Secondly, provide the tools and resources to help employees succeed at their wellness challenge. Reminders, support such as healthy foods and drinks, and positive reinforcement are very important to helping your team develop healthy new habits. Key managers and company leaders who participate in the challenge set a top-down as well as bottom-up

Lastly, incentivize. Everyone wants to be rewarded, even for doing what they know they should be doing – but aren’t. Rather than celebrating individual results, foster a sense of community and reward all participants. Incentives don’t need to be costly or elaborate, but they should be meaningful to the challenge: think fun t-shirts, a fruit smoothie coupon, a lunch-hour yoga class, mini massages, healthy meal kit delivery service vouchers or a grocery store gift certificate.

3 Healthy Eating Workplace Wellness Challenges

Here are 3 company challenges you can try this summer to encourage healthier, happier employees.

1. Eat Better Challenge

The headlines are full of #FakeNews… and our bodies are full of #FakeFood.  Help your employees understand the best food choices by first helping them understand 3 broad categories of food:

  • Natural or minimally processed foods

Natural and minimally processed foods are foods that have been altered only slightly but have no added salt, sugar or oil.

Examples include eggs, fresh fruit, pre-washed salad, rice, grains that are ground into flour, milk that has been pasteurized, dried legumes; frozen vegetables, fresh or dried pasta, yogurt without sugar, unsalted nuts, natural nut butters, cooled or frozen meats and dried unsweetened fruit.

  • Processed foods

Processed foods are those that are natural or minimally processed foods but that have added ingredients such as salt, sugar or oil.

Examples include cheese, pickles, canned fruit, canned legumes, canned stewed tomatoes, beef jerky, deli meat, canned fish and simple bread (made from flour, yeast, water and salt).

For a list of the healthiest processed foods check out our blog post here: The Top Processed Foods to Keep in Your Diet

  • Ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods may not be recognizable as a version of an original natural food and will have additives included for color, flavor, aroma, texture or ingredients added to extend the shelf life.

Examples include cake mixes, frozen entrees, sweetened baked goods, sweetened breakfast cereals, cereal bars, candies, pop and diet pop.

Challenge:

Eat more natural or minimally processed foods

How:

  1. Give participants a list of the above 3 categories of food (label natural or minimally processed foods green, processed foods yellow and ultra- processed foods red).
  2. Ask each participant to categorize their daily lunch (or workday snack choices or supper) choices by green, yellow and red food choices.  Tracking can happen on paper or using an app such as a goal/habit tracking app such as Strides.
  3. Work in teams to add up the total number of green, yellow and red food choices each week for the real food challenge.

2. Water Cooler Happy Hour Challenge

All happy hours don’t start at 5:00! Dehydration is one of the most overlooked nutrition issues that impacts the workplace. As I explained in my recent article on summer productivity, even mild dehydration causes a drop in workplace productivity:

  • Just 1% dehydration has been found to decrease worker productivity by 12%.
  • 1% dehydration results in workers experiencing decreased cognitive abilities, reduced concentration and alertness, and slower reaction times.
  • 3-4% dehydration can bring about a 25% decline in worker productivity.

Keeping well hydrated when participating in sports such as running, hiking, gym workouts can help you perform at your best. And proper hydration can help you perform at your best at work. Water is the best choice for staying hydrated, but other fluids such as milk, juice or tea can help get you there. How much water do you actually need? As a general guideline, adult males need about 3 litres (12 cups) of fluid per day and adult women need about 2.2 litres (9 cups) of fluid per day.

A hydration challenge can motivate your employees to boost their water intake so they feel better, look better and improve their concentration and energy.

Challenge:
Drink more water (and skip the pop).

How:
1. Give participants a branded happy hour water bottle they can take to their desk and replenish at your water station.

2. Create an attractive and flavorful water station with colorful and enticing fruits they can use to flavor their water:

  • Orange wedges
  • Raspberries and blueberries
  • Watermelon cubes and mini key limes cut in half
  • Splash of unsweetened juice
  • Thinly sliced cucumber and fresh mint leaves

3. Set a water schedule. Remind employees to refill their water bottles at 9am, 12noon and 3pm.

4. Track water intake. There are free apps that remind everyone to take a sip, and that track how much water they are drinking.

Or, go old-school and have employees fill out and post a hydration challenge worksheet, like this Water You Drinking challenge from Carleton University.

3. Give A Snack / Get A Snack Challenge

I believe you can eat anything – in moderation. As The Chocoholic Nutritionist, I love chocolate. But I know a candy bar everyday to fight the 3pm slump isn’t good for anyone.

There are many organizations who would welcome donated snacks as a special treat for their clients – even snacks full of sugar and chocolate can be part of a healthy diet! Its the daily indulgence, not the occasional treat, that causes health issues.

Challenge your employees to “fill the box” in 30 days with healthy treats they aren’t eating… and for each donated treat, reward them with a healthy treat!

There are companies that supply healthy workplace snacks, or stock up on health treats like:

  • Raw veggies and dip
  • Hard cooked eggs
  • Yogurt containers or parfaits
  • Mini bags of nuts
  • Whole grain crackers and hummus individual servings
  • Cheese packages

Mix it up with a weekly smoothie bar, fruit bowl, or veggie and dip platter to keep the message up front and the motivation strong.

When the challenge is over, invite a team of colleagues to deliver the snack donation, and report back with photos the entire office can enjoy.

Mindful Eating

There are many other fun nutrition challenges you can launch at work that encourage employees to eat better:

  • A healthiest homemade granola bar or energy ball competition
  • Pack a healthy lunch for your colleague challenge
  • Healthy breakfast challenge

A workplace nutrition challenge is a good opportunity to encourage healthy, mindful eating habits that can be learned and reinforced at the office then followed at home. To be successful your program shouldn’t be extreme, but should encourage practical, easy to implement lifestyle changes that make participants feel better about themselves.

What nutrition and wellness challenges have been successful in your workplace? We’d like to know! Leave me a note in the comments below or Contact me – with your company nutrition challenges and questions.

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.

CONTACT US if you need help planning workplace nutrition seminars, webinars, healthy eating challenges, onsite or virtual nutrition counseling by a corporate health dietitian on our team.

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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