Everyone wants to live longer and work smarter however, do we slow down enough to consider how our diet and lifestyle is impacting our health, how it is impacting our performance?
And more importantly, do we even know how to slow down?
“A healthy diet helps to protect against diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer”
The link between diet and our health is well understood, we know that a healthy diet helps to protect against diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. In contrast an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading risks to our health (1). We also know that long-term chronic stress can be problematic for our health and we talked previously of what we can do to support this. Symptoms we may notice include; food cravings, chest pains, insomnia, weight gain, memory impairment, cognition decrease, IBS (2,3,4). Symptoms that are far less obvious are an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (high BP and cholesterol) and suppression of our immune function (5,6).
Most of us know what we need to do. The challenge is actually doing it consistently!
Therefore, here are 3 reasons why nutrition should be part of your employee’s wellbeing program, to help them start to make those changes more permanent and bring benefits for a longer health span!
1. The workplace is an ideal setting to support nutritional health.
We spend a significant amount of our waking hours at work, maybe not as many hours physically in the building like we used to, but nevertheless in the work environment.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) claim that, workplace health programs are one of the best ways to prevent and control chronic disease and support mental health. Therefore, it’s an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health to a large audience.
- The Dept of Health have outlined in the Healthy Workplace Framework the impact of the
workplace where “The workplace directly influences the physical, mental, economic and social well-being of workers and, in turn, the health of their families, communities and society”. (7)
- For fulltime employees approx. 60% of their total daily dietary intake in a working day could be
consumed at work. Therefore, the workplace has the potential to significantly impact healthy eating practices and therefore employee health and wellbeing.
2. Fostering a culture of a “whole person” approach
A “Whole Person Approach” to wellbeing, focuses on the whole persons health. Including the physical, mental, social and their environment as indicated by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI) in a recent series on health (8). There are many components to health in a whole person approach, factors like exercise, diet, sleep, mental health, relationships and substance control all influence our wellbeing.
Our health is more than the absence of disease, we may not be ill, but are we flourishing either? For that reason, including nutrition as part of a whole person approach supports employees:
- Nutritional education – enhancing their ability to make healthy nutritional choices and choose a
regular eating pattern. Both of which enable them to perform physically better, with more energy and greater concentration and alertness. Education can improve employee lifestyle and nutrition choices, when we make sustained better choices, these all build to a more continued behaviour change.
- Lifestyle education – understanding that there are many factors that impact on our diet like physical activity, sleep and stress. A greater understanding of these, allows us to take actions in these areas also, which will further enhance their overall health.
- Individual approach – we are all different in our gender, age, genetically, metabolically and
therefore our nutritional needs are also different. This is further challenged as we all live different lives. When employees have an opportunity to understand what they need and how best to make change, this provides them an opportunity to support them towards flourishing health.
3. Link between employee’s nutritional health and business bottom line!
Having healthy employees has clear financial benefits, when linked to absenteeism. However, people
beneficial drivers are equally if not more important. Including nutrition as part of a program helps
employees to adopt behaviours towards improving their health, which in turn encourages greater work life balance with longer term benefits.
So, while a healthy workplace has benefits economically for a business, there are also key people
related benefits too.
(1) Better staff retention – Investment in a nutritional program for employees, shows that employers care about their most valuable asset, their workforce. A study in the UK by Westfield Health said that businesses that invested in corporate wellbeing programs are four times more likely to retain
employees than those who don’t (9).
(2) Brings team together and boosts morale – Teams that engage in initiatives together outside and inside work have a shared purpose which builds camaraderie and builds team spirit. 74% of employees stated that knowing their employer is committed to wellbeing would make them more motivated at work (10).
(3) Increased productivity – There are lots of reasons for inactivity including poor health and lack of energy, these could be down to poor lifestyle choices or low morale. Healthy employees can physically perform better because they have more energy. This also allows them the energy to focus on activities outside of work that enhance their overall wellbeing.
When some organisations think about wellbeing, they may only consider the benefits to absenteeism, an IBEC report on workplace trends in 2019, showed that key business objectives like engagement, retention and satisfaction are also assessed and can provide clear rewards in these areas also (11).
Taking a more whole person approach to employee wellbeing and their nutritional health, provides the opportunity for everyone to make changes that will ultimately help make for a healthier future.
(1) Healthy diet (2020) World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet.
(2) Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI journal, 16, 1057.
(3) Arnsten, A. F. (2015). Stress weakens prefrontal networks: molecular insults to higher cognition. Nature neuroscience, 18(10), 1376.
(4) De Palma, G., Collins, S. M., Bercik, P., & Verdu, E. F. (2014). The microbiota–gut–brain axis in
gastrointestinal disorders: stressed bugs, stressed brain or both?. The Journal of physiology,
(5) Lagraauw, H. M., Kuiper, J., & Bot, I. (2015). Acute and chronic psychological stress as risk
factors for cardiovascular disease: Insights gained from epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 50, 18-30.
(6) Dhabhar, F. S. (2014). Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful.
Immunologic research, 58(2-3), 193-210.
(7) Gov.ie. 2019. Healthy Workplaces. [online] Available at:
(8) (2021) The Science of Health and Happiness – RCSI. Available at: https://www.rcsi.com/dublin/-/media/feature/media/download-document/dublin/about/schools-
(9) 7 Most Important Reasons to invest in employee wellbeing at work: https://www.wellsteps.com/blog/2020/01/02/employee-well-being-at-work
(10) Why invest in employee wellbeing: https://www.wefitter.com/why-invest-employees-wellbeing/
(11) IBEC. HR Update 2019: Key pay and workplace trends [Internet]. IBEC; 2019. Available