We spend most of our day travelling to and at work. We also do much of our eating at work. This means that we have a great opportunity to target the health and wellbeing of our colleagues and staff by helping them to think about how they eat and exercise during the day. Taking a look at when, what and how people eat is a great first step to a healthy weight
How can employers help staff to get to or stay at a healthy weight
Whether we like it or not, obesity is a reality for many workplaces and the impact it has on staff – both personally and productively – is huge. Obesity rates are climbing in Ireland and with it heart disease, diabetes, back and joint problems and even issues with mobility. Helping staff to get to or stay at a healthy weight is one of the most important aspects of health at work.
There is an idea that if a food is healthy, that you can eat as much as you like. Sadly this is not true. Education on portion sizes is a great place to start when it comes to weight. A lunch or dinner plate should be no bigger than your out-stretched hand.
A smaller plate is a great help but not if it is filled with pasta and nothing else! ½ of your plate at lunch and dinner needs to be salad or vegetables; ¼ protein (meat, chicken, fish, beans, lentils) and ¼ carbs. You can put up posters with this balance displayed so that staff can see what need to aim for.
Lots of us eat because food is there, rather than because we are hungry. We also snack because it is break time, rather than because we are hungry. Encourage staff not to keep food visible on desks or workstations. Keep it out of sight so you only think about it when you are hungry. In staff kitchens don’t keep biscuits or treats on counters or in clear storage jars. Keep them in cupboards or opaque storage. You are more likely to think about eating a biscuit if you see one.
Eating more fibre has been shown to help people to lose weight and to keep it off. Given that 80% of people in Ireland don’t eat enough fibre, this is something we can work on. Talk to staff about adding high fibre foods. Talk about swaps: e.g. swapping white bread for brown bread; swapping a breakfast pastry for a high fibre cereal. Try having some high fibre options available at breakfast for a few weeks – high fibre cereals; high fibre toppings like seeds or oat bran; fresh fruit.
Sugar-sweetened drinks can add calories. Talk to staff about what they choose to drink at and in between meals. Water is always a great option so make sure there is water available. Milk is also good and is a great way to add calcium. Is there milk available for staff who like it? What is in vending machines and workplace kitchens? Having options that are lower in sugar or simply having more water around can really help. Herbal teas are surprisingly good and it’s easy to have a mint plant in the kitchen where staff can make a fresh, sugar free mint tea anytime.