Promote Healthy Eating Habits In Your Workplace
This is probably seen at the greatest extent in our school systems where replacement of junk foods with healthier options in vending machines and cafeterias has been shown to successfully slow the obesity rate. However, the success of such public messages to places frequented by adults is uncertain. Two new studies published this month tested the effect of such messages on eating habits.
In one study, nutrition researchers changed the food environment of a worksite cafeteria in an attempt to improve the employees’ dietary intake. Employees who participated in this study were assigned to one of two situations:a change in food environment that consisted of the addition of 10 new low-energy-dense (i.e. high nutrient) foods and handing out of nutrition labels of all foods available at lunch orthe same food environment change plus education about low-energy-dense foods in 4 group sessions, and pricing incentives to purchase low-energy-dense foods.
Lunch choices were monitored daily for 6 months, 3 months before the intervention and 3 months after the introduction of the dietary change. This change in workplace food environment and education about healthy eating habits resulted in a decrease in fat consumption and an increase in carbohydrate consumption. Similar improvements in eating habits were seen in both study groups.
A second study examined the impact of a healthy eating education programin two beauty salons. This pilot study tested the effectiveness of a 6-week health intervention to improve fruit and vegetable consumption, water consumption, and physical activity in African-American women. This health intervention consisted of motivational sessions between the cosmetologists and their clients, educational information packets, and a starter kit of samples. Responses to questionnaires provided to the beauty salon clients showed that fruit and vegetable consumption was substantially increased in clients that received the 6-week health intervention compared to clients that did not receive the samples and educational materials.
The positive results of these two studies suggest that workplace changes designed to provide healthier food options and/or education about healthy eating habits can improve our dietary habits. While much of this type of research has focused on childhood obesity, these studies clearly point out that similar types of interventions can improve the eating habits of adults as well. Continued development and use of employee wellness programs and changes in workplace break room food options have the ability to positively impact eating habits and obesity risk.