March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to remind employees about the health benefits of eating well. A healthy diet can result in fewer sick days, more energy, better mental clarity, and greater productivity. That’s because food directly impacts one’s moods, energy levels, and metabolism.
Americans are uniquely averse to maintaining healthy food habits — 80% of the calories we consume come from ultra-processed foods that we rely on to get us through busy days. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading risk factor for chronic illness worldwide is high blood pressure, followed by high cholesterol and low consumption of fruits and vegetables. These three risk factors combined account for around 80% of deaths attributed to heart disease and stroke.
The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is "Personalize Your Plate" — a reminder that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. Each of us is unique; we all have different bodies, goals, backgrounds, and tastes. Employees should find ways to incorporate healthy foods into their diet that suits their tastes, lifestyles, and moods.
How People Teams Can Help Their Workforce
What can HR do to encourage good nutrition and healthy eating among employees? Here are eight strategies:
- Offer mindfulness courses or meditation breaks for employees. This helps them learn about, understand, and become more in tune with their bodies.
- Encourage employees to talk to their primary care doctor or nutritionist about their diet and nutrition. Or, schedule a group session with a nutritionist to talk about healthy eating.
- Encourage therapy as a resource for helping uncover potential underlying causes of bad eating habits like stress eating.
- Make healthy snacks readily available if you’re working from the office or ship them to offsite and remote employees. This helps your people replace midday cravings with healthy options.
- Offer a nutrition stipend or gift card to purchase ready-made healthy meal kits, so employees have help planning healthy meals ahead of busy weeks.
- Send employees new, company branded water bottles to encourage them to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Promote mental health days so employees know it’s okay to take time for themselves when they need a break.
- Educate employees. Send out communications on foods they can eat to fuel their immune system.
Nutrition Tips to Share With Employees
We've outlined recommendations you can share with your workforce directly to help them form healthier eating habits.
Know your body.
Recognize everyone’s bodies are unique. Foods or diets that work for someone else may not work for you. Make a note of how your body reacts to certain foods and how they make you feel over the course of a day.
Try eliminating certain foods.
Think about the processed foods and sugar you consume regularly. Try cutting processed foods and sugar out of your diet for two weeks. Gradually reintroduce these foods into your diet one-by-one and keep a food diary that recaps how each new inclusion makes you feel. If re-introducing a specific type of food negatively impacts your mood or energy levels, consider cutting that particular food out of your diet permanently.
Boost your immunity.
Fight viruses and disease by fueling your immune system. Try a diet packed with nutrients such as Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin B12. Focus on foods like these that protect your immune system.
- Include different veggies and fruits in your diet. Reduce inflammation with apples, berries, tomatoes, celery, and onions.
- Boost your immune system with fermented foods containing probiotics, such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha.
- Don’t forget the omega-3’s. Salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the body.
Watch your habits.
Note your eating habits when you are stressed or depressed — do you find yourself eating more or less than usual? When you’re stress eating, it’s easy to reach for processed or sugary foods as a comfort measure. Keep nutritious, high energy snacks on hand so that whatever you grab is good for your body.
Plan your meals.
It’s common to eat poorly when you’re busy and unfocused. If you know you have a busy or stressful week coming up, try to plan your meals ahead of time. Buy healthy ingredients, prepare meals in your downtime, and freeze them so they don’t go bad. That way, you always have something healthy available for fast weeknight dinners.
Make healthy snack swaps.
Most of us like salty foods and crave sweets. But it’s important to have alternatives handy.
- Replace processed sweets with things like fruits, chia seeds, and berries.
- Curb your salt cravings. Remember that, over time, salt can damage your blood vessels, heart, kidneys, and even your brain. Try replacing salty snacks with hummus and vegetables and by swapping your salt seasoning with other spices, herbs, and low-sodium substitutes such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Water helps your system flush toxins and carries oxygen to your entire body. Often when we feel hungry, our brain is simply telling us we are dehydrated.
Clear your head.
While it’s helpful to monitor your food intake, obsessing over counting calories or writing down everything you eat can be stressful in itself. Instead, calmly focus on the changes in your own body and the ways food affects you. Relax and enjoy your food when you can.
Our eating habits are directly tied to our physical, mental, and emotional health. Eden Health’s collaborative care model addresses physical health and mental health simultaneously — this holistic approach to patient care sets our members up for healthier outcomes in every aspect of their lives.