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GlaxoSmithKline’s provision of clean, bright, smoke-free surroundings, separate from work areas, where employees can eat, relax and socialise is as vital to promoting healthy eating as the actual food on offer

Healthy eating is more than just a nutritional exercise The physical and social workplace environment also plays a significant role in shaping eating habits. The provision of clean, bright, smoke-free surroundings, separate from work areas, where employees can eat, relax and socialise is as vital to promoting healthy eating as the actual food on offer. A significant amount of knowledge-sharing also occurs at meal and break times.

Cadbury offer grilled food as a healthy, yet tasty, alternative to a fry up

The psychological experience of work itself also influences what and how we eat. Research by business psychologists Pearn Kandola found that stressful encounters such as having a row with a colleague, meeting the boss or missing a deadline could all lead to increased snacking during the working day. Women and men were shown to respond differently by job stress, with women being more likely than men to drink too much coffee, eat high-calorie snacks,

smoke and take less exercise than their male counterparts.

In short, employers wishing to promote healthy eating habits among their employees should recognise that eating is a physical, emotional and social activity which is shaped by the experience of work as a whole. A healthy eating initiative therefore needs to be integrated with a broader health and wellbeing programme which takes all aspects of the workplace environment into account.

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Tasty, yet nutritious, desserts increase the appeal of healthy eating

The serving of chips in staff canteens provides a good example of how actions can be tailored to the particular situation of the business. Our Healthy Eating Steering Group members surveyed for this publication reported variously taking chips off the menu completely; surreptitiously reducing the fat/salt content by providing oven chips (‘health by stealth’); providing alternatives (e.g. salad) alongside chips, and/ or making chips continuously available. Each decision was based on a practical evaluation of the needs of the workforce and the business.

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