The number of people affected by chronic, noncommunicable diseases will rise considerably in the decades to come, creating an astounding economic burden. Worldwide, healthy workplace initiatives are being put in place to address this rise, but even so, the economic impact will be huge. A cumulative loss of a whopping $47 trillion is projected in the next two decades due to health care costs to treat cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health, as reported by the World Economic Forum.

As an employer, it is crucial for you to do your part to play an active role in promoting healthy eating habits and improving nutritional choices among your staff in order to lower the risk of the aforementioned chronic diseases and work absenteeism. Consider scheduling your initiatives to coincide with National Nutrition Month in March, a health campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Getting Started With Good Nutrition

Before implementing any healthy workplace initiative, it’s best to find out what employees usually eat for lunch and their views on health. You can do this by gathering data through anonymous surveys and optional, private interviews to establish a current picture of health at your company. Next, conduct an assessment based on the gathered data. You can then start designing a program and include relevant strategies and resources based on what you find.

Consider adopting the following best practices with this year’s theme, “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle,” in mind:

  • Cooking demonstrations. Organize live cooking demonstrations with a focus on simple, healthy and delicious meals.
  • Smoothie day. Treat each employee to a vegetable smoothie once a week to give them an energy boost.
  • Sandwich-making competition. Have employees participate in preparing creative sandwiches using healthy ingredients and bread or wraps with whole grains.
  • Steer employees toward the right food vendors. Make up a cheat sheet of cafes and restaurants in the area, and highlight the places with the healthiest menus.
  • Change up the vending machines. Serve mixed nuts and low-calorie rice crackers at vending machines instead of snacks high in saturated fat.
  • Fresh fruit basket. Order a fresh fruit basket regularly and make it available to employees in the company lounge.
  • Weekly healthy lunch club. Assign employees to bring ingredients and prepare healthful sandwiches or wraps each week for their own departments. Duties can be rationed so that everyone gets a chance to be involved and get the club going.

The success of the program is dependent on continual feedback through periodic surveys, informal discussions and interviews; you can then develop new initiatives designed to improve the outcome while being more tailored to your employees’ liking. Investing in your employees’ welfare can contribute to the success of your company in the long run though better productivity, lower absenteeism and improved talent retention. The reduction in health care expenses as a result of an effective healthy workplace program translates to more savings for your company and society as a whole.

Emmie Sahlan has a graduate degree in English and has been writing professionally for the past five years. Her niche areas are insurance, credit cards, personal finance and education.