Creating a Healthy Workplace Nutrition Environment: A Call to Action

Eighty eight percent of Canadians say that
healthy eating is important to them Yet Canadians still aren’t eating well. in fact less than one percent follow
canada’s food guide leading to increased rates of nutrition-related chronic diseases like type two diabetes and heart disease. Most employed Canadian adults spend at least 60% of their waking hours at work and eat at least one meal at their place of employment. This makes workplaces an ideal setting to promote healthy eating. Optimal nutrition is essential for the overall health, vitality and productivity of employees. Productive and healthy employees are a business’s greatest asset. This is why healthy eating makes good business sense. Currently however, food and beverages provided in the workplace during meetings, celebrations, through retail settings such as vending machines, or those left in common areas, provide employees regular access to unhealthy foods, making the current workplace nutrition environment a concern. Most often, workplace efforts that promote healthy eating are focused on changing individual behaviour. This does not work. The fact is, individuals make over two hundred food-related decisions every day and many are out of their control. We have to take the focus off the individual. There are many factors that affect eating behaviours. For example, foods that are high in fat and sugar stimulate the brain’s reward system. Just seeing unhealthy foods, like candy bowls in common areas, stimulates the brain. Add to that being stressed or hungry and these foods are hard to resist. This is why a comprehensive strategy is needed. The Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health has developed a framework to create a healthy workplace nutrition environment based on nine essential elements. The essential elements call for multiple actions including organizational commitment to a positive healthy eating environment, access to healthy foods and creation of nutrition policies that ensure that the healthy choice is the easiest choice. Along with the nine essential elements, we recommended implementation of the nutrition standards for workplaces. The nutrition standards outline the foods that are consistent with Canada’s Food Guide that should be offered or sold. They provide a common standard for all, and are the key to improving the nutrition environment. Everyone plays a role in creating a healthy nutrition environment in workplaces. What’s yours? For more information on the Call to Action visit the resource section of our website.

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