How can you encourage Healthy Eating in your workplace?

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    The first question you might ask is, why encourage healthy eating in my workplace?

    There are several reasons why but here are four to get started.

    There is significant research outlining that an unhealthy diet is related to an increased risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Our diet plays a direct role in decreasing the risk of these chronic disease.

    Our workplace has a significant influence on our dietary pattern, as we spend a considerable amount of time there so it can be an important factor effecting our dietary behaviour. Evidence is now growing of the effectiveness of workplace programs, in improving an employee’s dietary habits (1).

    Workplaces can directly influence the physical, mental, economic and social wellbeing of employees and therefore offers an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health. Indeed, the World Health Organisation (WHO), have outline that workplace health programmes are one of the best ways to prevent and control chronic disease, and also to support mental health (2).

    Another reason is that workplace health initiatives can deliver a wide range of benefits for both employers and staff. Some of the benefits of improving health in the workplace also benefit the business, including increased employee motivation, more productive working atmosphere and increased productivity.

    Healthy Salad Bowl

    So, are there some ways to encourage healthy eating at work?

    The simple answer is yes, there are many straightforward changes that can be undertaken to encourage healthier eating. Some of these that could kickstart a healthier workplace are:

    1. Raise awareness of the benefits of healthy eating.

    • This can be done by providing educational leaflets and resources on healthy eating. Publicise this information on posters, leaflets, intranets, screen savers, payslips and employee team meetings. An example could be the Know Your Numbers resource from Healthy Ireland and the HSE which
      encourages us to reflect on our current lifestyle behaviours (3).
    • Provide information sessions and courses on the benefits of healthy eating and the risks of poor nutrition.
    • Hold healthy eating promotional events with themed healthy eating weeks or days, e.g., breakfast ideas, getting more vegetables, or going brown pasta, bread etc.

    2. Make it easy to change by providing supports to make a healthier choice.

    • Provide food storage and preparation areas e.g., cool storage areas for lunchboxes and snacks.
    • Provide access to water in meeting and training rooms. Offer fruit snack options instead of biscuits at meetings. The Healthy Ireland Healthy Meeting Guidelines offers some more practical
      advice (4).
    • If canteen or catering is available, increase the availability and options for healthier choices e.g., introduce healthy options in vending machines like fruits, nuts etc.

    3. Encourage a culture of taking time to eat and digest.

    • Encourage employees to take their lunch breaks, eat meals away from their desks.
    • Encourage taking some time during lunch to get some fresh air and walk.
    • Encourage a policy of no meetings during lunch times.

    4. Foster an environment of participation.

    • Engage with employees and get their opinion on what might work for them.
    • Create a healthy eating working group that is representative of your organisation, that can help define what is the best approach for your organisation and then help implement it.
    • Review what ideas are working and what ones are not, amend plans if needed based on feedback.

    Any initiatives for healthy eating and behavioural change are best met when employees are engaged
    from an early stage. Participation rates in health behaviours that are meaningful and effective are greater when the uptake is voluntary. Some may not be ready to take part or others may not want to participate, both of which needs to be respected.

    Healthy eating activities that target the individual employee, should be coupled with activities at the level of the organisation, to provide the best opportunity for success.


    (1) Quintiliani L, Poulsen S, Sorensen G. Healthy eating strategies in the workplace. International Journal of Workplace Health Management. 2010;3(3):182-196.
    (2) Healthy workplaces: a model for action For employers, workers, policy-makers and practitioners [Internet]. 2010. Available from:
    (3) Healthy Ireland, Health Available at:HIH01277_GqvV0kf.pdf (

    (4) Healthy Ireland, Available at: f29effefbb3748608ed45c56fb78687d.pdf (