Benefits of Nutrition Programs
Nutrition directly impacts nearly every aspect of physical and mental health. A healthy diet can help protect against such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, certain cancers and depression. Obesity, which is among the most common conditions linked to diet, affects a record number of Americans.
The American Journal of Health Promotion estimates the cost of obesity to U.S.
corporation to exceed $12.5 billion in health care, sick leave, and life and
disability insurance. Further, one study reports that obesity raises health
care costs by 36 percent and medication costs by 77 percent. To offset the health
risks of obesity and poor diet, many organizations have committed to helping
employees ensure proper nutrition and undertake weight control initiatives.
Popular nutrition initiatives:
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
- Offer healthy eating reminders and prompts to employees via multiple means
(i.e. e-mail, posters, payroll stuffers, etc.).
- Offer appealing, low-cost fruits and vegetables in snack machines and in
- Offer cookbooks, food preparation, and cooking classes for employees’
- Ensure onsite cafeterias follow healthy cooking practices and set nutritional
standards for foods served that align with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for
- Offer healthy foods at meetings, conferences, and catered events.
- Use point-of-decision prompts as a marketing technique to promote healthier
- Offer healthy cooking demonstrations that teach skills (i.e. fruit and vegetable
selection and preparation).
- Offer taste-testing opportunities at the workplace.
- Offer staff member-led campaigns, demonstrations or programs.
- Offer local fruits and vegetables at the workplace (i.e. workplace farmer’s
market or community-supported agriculture drop-off point).
- Use competitive pricing (price non-nutritious foods in snack machines and
cafeterias at higher prices).
- Offer protected time and dedicated space away from the work area for breaks
- Make kitchen equipment available to employees.
- Offer an opportunity for onsite gardening if possible.
Sweetened Beverage Consumption
- Make water available throughout the day.
- Offer appealing, low-cost healthful drink options in snack machines and
- Modify worksite snack contracts to increase the number of healthy options.
- Price non-nutritious beverages at a higher cost.
- Use point-of-decision prompts to promote healthier choices.
1. Label foods to show serving size and/or nutritional content.
2. Offer food models, food scales for weighing and pictures to help employees
assess portion size.
3. Offer appropriate portion sizes at meetings, workplace events and in the
Nutrition initiatives in action
While many organizations address weight management through fitness initiatives,
organizations are increasingly focusing on nutrition through separate programming.
Recognizing the productivity boost and lowered medical expenditures that come
with maintaining a healthy weight, many organizations may help pay for obesity
treatments for employees. By way of example, to improve the health of dangerously
obese employees, drug maker Wyeth reportedly pays for stomach-shrinking surgeries
that carry price tags of up to $40,000.
A 2003 Society of Human Resource Management study shows that 24 percent of
employers offer weight loss initiatives. In Ohio, Honda offers an onsite, registered
dietitian who provides individual or group consultations on weight management.
Body fat analysis and body mass index (BMI) measurements are available to employees
at any time.
At Grange Insurance’s Columbus headquarters, the cafeteria chef analyzes
meals and provides employees basic nutrition information, including Weight Watchers
points. Many organizations partner with the American Cancer Society to offer
nutrition information through the ”5-ADay” program, which provides
employers free signage and educational materials about the importance of eating
five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The program also offers a fruit
and vegetable ”frequency card” that gives employees a free portion
of fruit or vegetables after he or she has purchased a preset number.