Promoting Positive Choices

Employees may prefer to bring their own food to work, even when a staff restaurant/canteen or vending machines are available. Employers can create a positive environment for food with appropriate storage space, including refrigerators, and simple food preparation facilities such as a microwave oven. Employees will have greater control over what they eat and drink if they can bring and prepare their own meals.

Positive practices include:

  • Work with employees to identify what they need to help them to make healthier food choices
  • Work with purchasing and/or catering managers to improve the offer of food and drink, and look at the wording and requirements in your contracts (particularly when re-tendering).
  • Develop a pricing policy to support healthier choices Provide healthier options at meetings and events
  • Begin a conversation about how special events (birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, promotions) are marked at work. Can ‘cake days’ be shared, or healthier alternatives be provided?
  • Where practical, offer free fresh fruit and vegetables at strategic points in the workplace as well as any existing snack options or vending machines. Consider using a local vendor to bring daily fresh fruit supplies. Encourage staff to take home any fruit and vegetables left at the end of the day
  • Use family days to introduce partners and children to the organisation’s healthy eating initiative. Support at home can really make a difference
  • Run cooking and healthy eating courses. Coaching on what to buy and understanding food labels can also help staff to choose healthier options

Hydration & Drinks

Keeping hydrated is part of a healthy balanced diet, but remember that drinks can also contribute to our calorie intake. This guidance from the Eatwell Guide can be useful when you are considering what drink options you provide for your employees.

The key points are:

  • Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid every day
  • Water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count towards fluid consumption
  • Fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies also count, although they are a source of free sugars (see NHS Choices for more information) and so you should limit consumption to no more than a combined total of 150ml per day and should consume at mealtimes to reduce the impact of the sugar on your teeth
  • Sugary drinks are one of the main contributors to excess sugar consumption. Swap sugary soft drinks for diet, sugar-free or no added sugar varieties to reduce sugar and calorie intake in a simple step
  • Access to drinking water is essential. Tap water should be visible and freely available, and such provision should be promoted
  • You could go a step further and integrate guidance from the Government Buying Standard for Food and Catering Services by limiting the sale of sugar sweetened beverages to no more than 330ml pack size; ensuring no more than 20 per cent of beverages (procured by volume) are sugar sweetened; and no less than 80 per cent of beverages (procured by volume) are low calorie/no added sugar beverages (including fruit juice and water)

Food Labelling

Nutrition labels can help individuals choose between products and keep a check on the amount of foods eaten that are high in fat, salt and sugars. This can also be very useful in canteen choices. However, food labelling doesn’t show if the sugar content is from free sugar (sugar added to food and drink) or from sugar naturally occurring in milk, fruit and vegetables. With this in mind, it is useful to opt for food and drink with green/amber front of pack, which means they contain low to medium sugar levels.

Tips to help shift workers stay healthy even with an irregular or shift work schedule

It is important to plan the timing and quality of your meals, for example:

  • Eat small, frequent meals rather than one big meal. Lighter options also reduce the risk of you feeling sluggish or sleepy during the night
  • Choose foods that are easy to digest (such as pasta, bread, salad, fruit and vegetables).
  • Avoid heavy or fatty meals, which are more difficult to digest and can make you feel drowsy Avoid sugary foods like chocolate, and instead snack on fruit and vegetables

Drink plenty of fluid, as dehydration can reduce both mental and physical performance but avoid drinking too much fluid before sleeping as this may overload the bladder.