The Office as a Setting for Good Nutrition
As a leading Nutritionist in Mumbai, apart from my private clinic practice I also love to conduct Diet & Nutrition workshops for corporate employees and make them aware of the importance of good Nutrition habits which can eventually help them to overcome the obesity epidemic that is sweeping the corporate workplace and also negate the harmful consequences that our stressful lives place on our immune system. As part of my corporate counseling projects I also take pride in advising HR departments about healthy meal planning at company cafetarias.
Why Healthy Meal Planning at Cafetarias
It is important to have healthy meal planning at company cafetarias and not just hire a caterer and leave them to plan the dishes on their own. Obesity management should begin right at the beginning of the food creation cycle and by controlling the menu of caterers, companies can take the first step towards maintaining a healthy food culture at the workplace. Most office employees are present at work for atleast 8 hours a day, five to six days a week. Most office employees right from the office boys to the highest level of CXO’s face similar health concerns. I believe that an opportunity exists for us to provide for employees wholesome breakfast, lunch and snacks. HR managers have the opportunity not just to hire caterers but to also intervene in the menu and ingredient planning process and provide their employees with access to nutritious foods that will keep their employees healthy, productive and happy. Whether it be through the foods that are available in the canteens, meal vouchers, pleasant places to eat or by vending machines that dispense healthy options.
Opportunities for Employee Meal Planning
- Ideally the meal break must be a time to rest, refuel and bond with the co-workers and release some of the stress and also to physically remove oneself from one’s cabin or workstation.
- The meal setting must be clean and free from noise, vibrations, chemicals and other hazards of the work area. It must be a place to unwind.
- The workplace can be a haven for good nutrition provided the company cares enough to initiate policies regarding the same. The cafeteria must have foods that any dietician or doctor would recommend for losing weight or lowering one’s cholesterol levels. Foods such as whole grains, breads, lean meats, fruits, pulses and vegetables must be emphasized over fattening fried foods.
- Meals must be affordable and the eating areas must not be far from the area where food is served.
Lost Opportunities for Healthy Food at Workplace
In many companies, employees don’t have access to a proper canteen or a good affordable restaurant. In some digital media agencies etc. I have found that some of them don’t even have a refrigerator to safely store food that employees have brought along with them. Greasy canteens abound in most companies in India. Most companies have food courts or cafetarias that only offer fast-food options at lunch time! The streets outside these company buildings abound with street food stalls of questionable quality and poor hygiene conditions.
Shockingly some companies don’t even have formal meal breaks. Employees at such companies more often than not skip lunch and get by with only a sandwich or wada pavs and a Pepsi! Then there are situations where employees eat at their desks or in a messy backroom, have no proper place to wash up before eating and thus they regularly fall sick from food-borne contaminants.
The Reality of Nutrition at the Workplace
- The sad reality is that there are few laws if any that clearly stipulate when, how and where workers gain access to food.
- In most companies that I have been to, workers have low expectations about in-house meal programs and they often feel that they have more pressing concerns than meals!
- In countries like India, less than one quarter of office employees consume enough calories for normal activity. And for daily wage labourers whose sole income depends on heavy manual labour, their nutrition intake is even worse!
- In India we have the unique problem of half our population being thin and malnourished due to inadequate nutrition intake while the other half is also malnourished and obese from over consumption of the wrong foods!
Eventually a cycle begins to emerge. Poor health leads to lower earnings which in turn leads to a poorly qualified employee force. This is in turn leads to lower productivity, loss of competitiveness of the company in the market, high business costs and lower economic growth. The final result is that the employees have lower wages and greater disparity of wealth which in turn again leads to poor nutrition and poor health!
Thankfully some enlightened companies are waking up and breaking this vicious cycle. Zydus Takeda one of India’s biggest pharma and healthcare company invited me to help convert their regular cafeteria menu into a healthier one. I love assignments like these because it helps me to target a large number of employees and positively impact their health and productivity. Have a look at some pictures from my recent trips to their headquarters in Navi Mumbai where I advised the management as well as the Chefs on Heathy Meal Planning and devised a monthly menu for them where the food not only has variety every day but is also balanced and healthy!
If you feel that the food served in your company’s cafetaria leaves a lot to be desired in terms of nutrition, then do not hesitate to call me on my number +91 98206 07875 to discuss how I can initiate similar healthy + tasty meal plans at your workplace.