Having a wellness program in place for your employees helps support them in living a healthy lifestyle in and outside of work. Weight and stress management tend to be the focus of many corporate wellness programs. Companies are opening in-office gyms, or providing yoga and meditation classes. But they may be overlooking the benefits nutrition could have on their workforce.
Often times people connect healthy nutrition to weight loss or physical well-being, but the greatest impact it has is on your cognitive abilities. Your brain is responsible for cognition. It is the engine that keeps you running – in other words, it’s what takes care of your thoughts, movements, senses and everything that makes you function as a human being.
Think of your brain as an expensive car that requires premium-grade gas to function. If you fill it up with anything but premium, over time you’ll see a decrease in performance.
The same thing happens to your brain when you eat. When you regularly feed your body good, nutritional foods, you’re fueling your brain to work at its highest potential. You may get away with eating processed or junk food once in a while, but make it a habit and eventually it’ll catch up to your brain. You’ll have a tough time functioning day to day – you’ll get easily tired and have trouble concentrating, amongst other symptoms.
It’s no wonder, then, that nutrition also plays an important role in mental health. Your digestive system produces around 95% of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter known as “the happy chemical” that helps regulate mood, decreasing anxiety and reducing depression. Nutrition is the key to a healthy digestive system. As a result, good nutrition can contribute to mental health, which can also affect work performance.
Here are three ways you can incorporate healthy nutrition in your wellness program to help improve your employees work performance and overall well-being.
1) Ditch the temptation snacks for healthier options
Sure, junk foods like candy and ice cream might spark momentary joy, but providing those options too often can lead your employees to develop bad habits with negative long-term effects.
As an employer, you can encourage good eating habits by providing healthy and nutritional snacks in the office. Consider signing up for a fresh food delivery service that will provide fresh fruits like oranges, bananas, apples and other healthy options.
You’ll be helping employees be more productive too! One study shows that employees who eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables for at least four days a week are 20% more likely to be more productive at work.
Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, for example, help to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls many functions of the brain including memory, learning, decision making and creative thinking.
If you have a vending machine in your office, consider investigating whether you can replace some of the chips or chocolate bars with brain-powering snacks like nuts and seeds. These snacks are high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, which can help improve cognitive performance and aid in healthy digestion.
2) Start a smoothie station
Most offices have coffee makers and tea kettles, so why not take it one (healthy) step further with a smoothie station? Smoothies are an easy and delicious way for employees to get their essential nutrients and keep their energy levels up throughout the day, so they can feel great and get more done.
According to holistic nutritionist, wellness expert and celebrity health coach, Kelly LeVeque, you can get all four essential nutrients – protein, fat, fiber and greens – from just one cup of a smoothie. She calls it the “Fab Four Smoothie.” Her formula/recipes include:
- One serving or 20 grams of protein (e.g. grass-fed whey or collagen)
- A minimum of one teaspoon of healthy fat (e.g. almond butter or avocado)
- 1-2 tablespoons or 10 grams of fiber (e.g. chia seeds or flax)
- A handful of greens (e.g. spinach, kale or cucumbers)
- The optional quarter cup of fruits, low in sugar (e.g. berries or acai)
- 6-8 ounces of liquid (e.g. unsweetened almond or coconut milk, coconut water if you’re going fruit-free, or just plain water)
These nutrients have a low glycemic index, which means that they release glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, helping keep your energy up throughout the day. In contrast, foods high in sugar or refined carbs pass through the bloodstream quickly, giving a temporary energy boost before causing it to come crashing down.
3) Educate your employees on good nutrition
When employees are stressed, they tend to do one of two things: they either forget to eat or they over consume foods that will make them feel worse. Learning about the benefits of maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet is important to overall well-being, but especially so in an office environment where stress can be common.
Consider hosting a Lunch & Learn on the topic of healthy eating. Many nutritionists will host free educational sessions that cover tips, recipes and resources to educate employees and encourage better eating habits.
Employee benefits can also provide resources to help employees improve their nutritional health. Many benefits packages include an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that employees can use to access additional educational resources and nutrition support.
You can also help create a culture where people share external resources on healthy living, like blog posts written by experts, news articles, TED Talks, and podcasts. Consider starting a health & nutrition club, or even just creating a Slack channel with that identified purpose. These kinds of small actions can have a great impact on company culture and help to promote a healthier workplace for everyone.
Did you know?
With Honeybee’s Allowance Accounts, you can provide your employees with funds to use towards time-saving services like grocery delivery, so they always have healthy ingredients on hand at home. Or, you can even set up your Allowance Accounts with funds to be used at specific places, like healthy cafés or restaurants near your office. This is a great way to encourage healthier practices when eating out!
Book a demo to learn more about Honeybee. Companies with over 10 employees may even qualify for FREE Allowance Accounts!