food

Average premiums for family healthcare coverage have risen 55 percent in the last 10 years, and they are projected to keep rising. Research has shown that diet and health are closely related, and with healthcare costs so out of control, perhaps it’s time for companies to start proactively using food as medicine for their employees.

In fact, it seems many people are already doing this for themselves, given how common alternative eating styles and diets have become. Here are six ways companies can take a more active role in supporting employee health — and attract new talent in the process:

1. Provide Access to Healthy Meals

As they say, the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Provide employees with easy access to meals that cater to their specific eating styles and health concerns. Employees are grateful for meals that are subsidized, complimentary, or simply accessible. Large corporations aren’t the only organizations that can offer employees fresh, quality foods daily. Smaller firms can provide inexpensive but healthy breakfast items such as oatmeal cups, hard boiled eggs, or fresh fruit.

Contract with a local caterer to offer simple lunch options like grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, grain or bean salads, and vegetarian chili. Supporting employee eating styles encourages them to stay on track toward their own health goals, saves time and hassle, and demonstrates your investment in your workers’ health and happiness.

2. Host Cooking Classes and Demos

When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who cook fewer meals or none at all. Invite a local chef or cooking school student to the office during lunch one day and watch employee’s eyes light up. Host a health coach who can conduct a session on a variety of topics to provide dietary education and bring employees together.

3. Team Up With Local Restaurants That Provide Healthy Options

Partner with healthy restaurants, takeout meal services, and organic markets in your local area. Talk to the owners and chefs to learn about the quality of ingredients and determine if they can cater to the specific eating styles of your employees. Use discount coupons and gift certificates to motivate employees, or offer them as rewards for workplace performance or achievement of a specific health goal.

4. Sponsor ‘Eating Clubs’ to Foster a Healthy Culture

Having a tribe of people who share the same health goals or eating style is a recipe for success. Offer to sponsor The Keto Club, The Vegan Group, or whatever is most popular in the office. When employees can share in the challenges and learn from others, it can make all the difference in the world to their health goals. Treat the group to a special snack box subscription, and set up a Facebook group or other forum for members to share their knowledge.

5. Provide Grab-and-Go Solutions

Provide meal options to employees who must work through lunch or after normal business hours. Partner with meal-kit delivery services to give employees discounted at-home delivery or in-office pick up. This can even get the whole family involved in healthy cooking at home, further bolstering your workers’ health initiatives.

6. Encourage Mindful Moments

Stress has a significant impact on health. Set up a meditation room; it can simply be a quiet office. Give employees noise-canceling headphones and access to meditation apps they can use during quick breaks or before and after work. Sessions as short as 5-10 minutes can help employees re-center and recharge during the day.

Employee wellness programs are growing more complex and comprehensive than ever, but one simple — and effective — way to reduce healthcare costs and attract/retain talent might simply be on our plates.

Marissa Costonis is a certified health coach and the author of the new Amazon best-seller, Change BITES: 5 Change Management Strategies to Transform Your Health.

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