Monj Health is one of Castlight’s Ecosystem partners.
Making an impact on what your employees eat on a daily basis might not be top of mind—but it’s definitely not something that should be completely ignored. After all, better employee nutrition can be good for the company’s bottom line.
Research shows that workplace nutrition interventions (e.g., nutrition education and healthier workplace food choices) reduce employee sick days and positively impact overall productivity, since what we eat directly affects our cognitive ability.
For instance, foods with Omega-3 fatty acids—like salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, and edamame—boost blood flow to the brain, which improves thinking abilities. In addition, the antioxidants in berries (especially blueberries) improve communication between brain cells, while the flavonoids in broccoli improve overall brain health.
If you’re ready to reap these rewards, here are a few ways employers can positively influence the nutrition of their people:
1. Offer Healthy Options in the Office and at Company Events
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but many people have reported that they have access to mostly unhealthy food choices at work. Simply changing these options from unhealthy to healthy can have an enormous impact on employee nutrition. In fact, one study found that increasing the choice of fruits and veggies in the office cafeteria and making them more affordable increased healthy food consumption by 300%.
Replace vending machine choices like chips and candy with healthy non-perishable alternatives like dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, and whole-food snack bars (e.g., Rx Bars and LÄRABAR). If possible, keep a freshly-stocked fruit bowl and refrigerated items like veggies and hummus in the kitchen.
For events or catered lunches, choose vendors that can provide healthier options, like grilled protein, steamed or roasted veggies, fresh fruit, and salads.
2. Incentivize Employees to Make Healthier Food Choices Outside of the Office
When it comes to changing habits, offering rewards can be a good way to get the ball rolling. And if these rewards make healthy eating even easier and more affordable, all the better!
You might choose to offer discounts on healthy meal kits—like Sunbasket or Green Chef—to help people cook up healthier meals outside the office, or partner with local farmer’s markets to get employees a deal on fresh fruits and veggies. You could also create a points system where employees earn points for participating in nutrition programs. These points could carry a monetary value, perhaps in the form of gift cards to healthy food markets such as Thrive or Misfits Market, or they could be accrued for extra time off to allow the employee time to focus on other wellbeing activities of their choosing.
When choosing rewards, it’s best to poll your population to get a good idea of the types of things that would motivate them the most—what works for some organizations won’t necessarily work for others.
3. Provide Tools to Help Employees Cook Nutritious Meals
One of the top ways to eat healthier is to cook more often at home. Studies show those who eat home-cooked meals are 28% less likely to have obesity, which is a major risk factor for sick days. But for many of us, that’s a challenge: Some surveys suggest as many as 35% of Americans hate cooking and 50% are ambivalent about it.
However, employers can help change that by offering access to tools that help employees not only cook nutritious meals, but also learn to enjoy cooking. Skill-building platforms such as Monj help people learn their way around the kitchen, building autonomy so they actually enjoy cooking and eating healthy food. And don’t forget that incentivizing utilization of the skill-building platform can help increase engagement—oftentimes, simply getting started can be the hardest hurdle to overcome.
Castlight ecosystem partner Monj Health is a digital health company led by a group of chefs, doctors, nutritionists, food lovers, and health enthusiasts who are committed to helping people learn new skills and make little discoveries that help them live a joyful, abundant, and delicious life. The company’s employee wellness platform hacks culinary school, providing people with the confidence to master their kitchen and cook up tasty, healthy food for life.