Employers can create healthy work environments

workplacePicture this: You arrive at work on Monday morning and your boss has surprised the staff with donuts and coffee for the weekly staff meeting. Later that day, you attend a lunch meeting at a partner organization. On the menu: pizza, cookies, and soda.
Sound familiar? This type of scenario is not uncommon in many workplaces. Meetings and events often involve food, and unfortunately the foods and beverages served are typically high in calories and sugar, and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Meetings and conferences also involve a lot of time sitting, with little opportunity for physical activity.
With two-thirds of South Carolina adults overweight or obese, and nearly half of our waking hours spent at work, South Carolina businesses have an important opportunity to create healthier work environments for employees.
Adopting a healthy meeting and events policy not only supports the health of your employees; it sends the message that health is important to your organization, and sets a positive example in the community and state. Also, of note, studies show a strong relationship between the physical and social environments of the workplace and the health behaviors of employees.
What does a healthy meeting policy look like? The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity has a great toolkit to get you started. Best practices typically include offering water and other no-calorie beverages, serving fruits and/ or vegetables with every meal, providing physical activity breaks for meetings lasting longer than one hour, and ensuring meetings are held in smoke-free facilities.
Importantly, having healthy meetings doesn’t have to mean spending more money. While some healthy foods may be more expensive, many caterers and restaurants can make small adjustments (like grilling or baking rather than frying, substituting mayo- or cream-based sauces for a healthier alternative, etc.) that don’t cost more money and still taste great. Also, reducing portion sizes, ordering less food, and reducing waste, may end up saving money by reducing overall food purchases.
If your organization or coalition already has a healthy meeting policy or is interested in adopting one, we’d love to hear from you. Email Hannah Walters at Hannah@eatsmartmovemoresc.org to let us know.