Motivating people to improve their diet, at work or at home is no easy task. Like any habit, food choices tend to be ingrained and are often a personal response to physical or emotional cravings. So how does one get someone to pick up and eat an apple instead of a candy bar?
Desktop dining: proper nutrition at work
Eighty-three percent of Americans regularly eat at their desks while at work, according to a survey by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety program. Unfortunately, foods obtained from a cafeteria, vending machine, fast-food or other restaurants tend to be less healthy and have more calories than foods prepared at home.
Employers who realize that food plays an important role in a companys culture are beginning to look at strategies for promoting healthy eating at work. Implementing strategies that encourage employees to make healthier food choices or even providing high-quality, portion-controlled food to employees can have a positive impact on obesity-related healthcare costs and make a significant improvement on job performance.
To explore ways of engaging employers in taking a more active role in Americas obesity problem, the Vitality InstituteTM recently conducted interviews with a number of businesses across the country ranging in both sector and size and from eight to 80,000 employees to gain insight into the state of food consumption at work. A forum was also held to explore and advance the workplace food agenda with contributors that included business leaders, food and health experts, academic researchers and entrepreneurs.
The Food at Work forum produced some salient calls to action that encourage healthier eating in the workplace including: employee competitions, cooking classes and sharing success stories. Several innovations from employers garnering positive employee engagement were also discussed.
For a complete review of this topic, see Food at work: Setting the Table for a Healthy Workforce
Fooducate: a personal mobile grocery advisor
While most people know they should be eating a more wholesome diet, deciphering all the health claims and foods nutrition information can be overwhelming. Thats where Fooducate can help. Think of this mobile app as a personal dietician or advisor who helps users make healthier food choices while they shop for groceries. Fooducate scans the barcode of any item in the store, instantly grades the food or beverage on a scale from A to D, and provides other useful product information.
To show how easy it is to take some of the guesswork out of healthy eating, Vitality ran a contest encouraging members to download the Fooducate app and scan at least one item each week. The winner received a personal nutritional consultation with a professional dietitian and a healthy food shopping spree. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The number of downloads and food scans from Vitality members totaled several thousand in one month. Fooducates favorable consumer reviews in addition to being voted iTune’s Best of the iPhone Health and Fitness category suggest that this simple technology can help transform health promotion.
So, it appears that making smarter food choices can come through small actions and personal motivation at home and at work that can put people on a path to greater behavioral change.