Workplace Wellness: Overcoming the Top 4 Challenges to Healthy Eating

Eat a variety of healthy foods to stay healthy.It makes good business sense to invest in keeping your employees happy and healthy. Increased workplace wellness is linked to higher productivity and reduced absenteeism. Employees who are physically active, lower their stress levels, and eat more healthily have a better quality of life at work and at home.

Good nutrition is an often-overlooked, crucial factor of a successful workplace wellness program. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, over 75% of the population fail to consume the recommended amounts of vegetables, dairy and fruits.  At the same time, most Americans are over-consuming added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium.

Why is healthy eating such a challenge, and how can your workplace wellness program help solve the problem? To help answer that question, we surveyed 2,000 full-time employees across the United States. The respondents identified four main barriers to healthy eating. Here are the challenges and how your program can address them.

Challenge 1: The Easiest Food Choices Aren’t Always the Healthiest

When it comes to food choices, there is perhaps nothing as easy as a drive-through window. If your employees are like most Americans, they are likely eating out 4 or 5 times a week.

And it goes without saying that these fast and easy options are heavy on calories and light on nutrition.

But healthy eating on the go is possible. It’s just a matter of knowing which options to choose, and having access to services that deliver good food. Your wellness program should include tools that help make eating healthy just as easy and convenient as the alternative.

Challenge 2: I Don’t Always Have Time to Buy and Prepare Healthy Food

Between working, commuting, and keeping up with social obligations, it can be hard for employees to find time to sleep, not to mention plan and shop for healthy meals. This issue can be further exacerbated when trying to please more than one palate. Working parents not only have the challenge of planning and preparing healthy meals, there is the simple matter of, “Will the kids eat it?”

Grocery shopping and meal planning are long overdue for a digital disruption, and your workplace wellness plan can help. Look for digital tools that can make meal planning and grocery shopping easier.

Challenge 3: It’s Too Expensive

On a surface level, it’s hard to debate the relative cost of, say, an apple and a pack of instant noodles. But does anyone just eat apples or live exclusively on instant noodles (we hope not)? The real question is: taken on the whole, does a healthy diet really cost that much more?

A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal found that the gap between the healthiest of diets and the poorest of diets was just $1.50 a day.  While this research is a few years old, it also predates the explosion of private-labeled versions of healthy foods — like quinoa, natural peanut butter, and frozen vegetables — which can now be found in just about every national grocery chain or big-box store.

It’s never been easier or more cost-effective to eat healthy food. The challenge here is less the cost and more the perception that healthy eating has to cost more. With the right guidance from your workplace wellness program, your employees can make the choices that make a difference without stretching their budget.

Challenge 4: The People I’m Around Don’t Eat Healthy

Let’s face it. In the United States, sharing a meal is one of the few times that we step away from the hectic pace of life to connect with family and friends. While these social connections are good for our souls, they may not be so good for our stomachs. There is an increasing amount of research demonstrating that our perceptions of “appropriate eating” are strongly influenced by social context. For example, we are likely to overeat if we are dining with someone who is eating a large amount.

The same holds true when eating within a group setting – such as your company cafeteria. Make sure your cafeteria has plenty of healthy options placed front and center. Outside of the workplace, make sure your workplace wellness program has tools to help employees lead their social group by example, rather than fall prey to their peer’s bad habits.

The Problem Is Perception

All of these challenges are tied to people’s pre-existing notions about food. People tend to believe that eating healthy is a hassle, or too expensive. Or they might not think much about nutrition at all. The way to change these perceptions is to provide your employees with the tools and information they need to look at eating a different way.

Zipongo is a digital nutrition platform that helps address these perception problems and more. Our platform and mobile app helps your employees eat healthier at home, at work, and dining out. Contact our Sales department today to learn more.

Download the Consumer Health POV report for the full results of our survey.

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