Since this week is World Salt Awareness Week – 21st to 27th March 2011 – I thought it would be a good time to discuss sound nutrition in the workplace and the importance of incorporating nutritional education into employee health programs.
We all know how hard it can be to fit in a healthy meal during a busy work day, and it’s all too easy to grab a salty, fatty or sugary snack on the go. Most people don’t realise though that their highly processed treat is only slowing them down in the long run.
WASH (the World Action group on Salt and Health) has set up World Salt Awareness week to draw attention to the dangerous levels of salt in convenience foods and their effects on people and employees’ health.
In the workplace setting, the short term dehydrating effects of salt laden foods are strongly linked to a reduction in mental performance, as well as headaches and irritability. In the long term, employees indulging in too many processed foods are at risk of developing a range of serious and debilitating illnesses.
High salt intake is a major contributor to elevated blood pressure which is the main cause of both stroke and heart attack. A diet high in salt has also been linked to chronic disease such as osteoporosis, asthma and cancer of the stomach, and the thirst associated with salty foods can often lead to the ingestion of calorie-laden soft drinks which contributes to diabetes and obesity. Remember that some of the foods highest in salt are actually sweet foods such as sweet biscuits and cookies which can run rampant at many corporate morning teas, so a general reduction in all unhealthy processed foods and an increase in healthy alternatives is the best bet for improved corporate health.
Some great news is that while unhealthy foods cause ill health and a reduction in on the job performance, healthy foods and a balanced diet can significantly improve workplace productivity across the board. A deficiency in iron for instance has been shown to impair the memory of adults, and too little iodine has been shown to affect decision making and initiative, so boosting both of these nutrients can have an almost immediate effect. A healthy breakfast is also a must for optimal mental performance and energy throughout the day, and hydration is critical for remaining alert so water, water, water!
Assessing the nutritional environment of a workplace is a fundamental part of any corporate wellness program. If you have a cafeteria on site, make sure food and drink options are healthy and limit salt, sugar and frying. Choose water coolers over soft drink machines and fresh fruit delivery services over unhealthy vending machine snacks.
Educating staff on the basics of good nutrition is also vital. Corporate health program initiatives such as on site nutritional seminars, team challenge such as Chews to Change, or one-on-one nutritional consultations will empower employees with the skills they need to take responsibility for their nutrition both in the workplace and at home.
Where possible, provide a microwave and refrigerator so that employees can bring their own healthy food and show support by making any catered events or meetings healthy and well balanced. A colourful fresh fruit platter is always well received and your company’s health will thank you.
For more information on Corporate Health Programs, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888) or contact us.