The Importance of Nutritional Education in the Work Place
Why is Nutritional Education Important? Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is also the leading cause of death in Clay County Missouri. There were a total of 1,455 deaths recorded in Clay County in 2006 from all causes. Of those 1,455 deaths, a staggering 406 were due to cardiovascular diseases2. Some of the major risk factors for heart disease include high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes3. One of the goals of the Clay County Health Department is to reduce the prevalence of heart disease among Clay County residents1.
To keep these risk factors from becoming major health concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends altering your diet and physical activity level. Focusing on nutrition and diet is something everyone can do. Learning how to include all five food groups in the correct proportions can easily help individuals to incorporate proper nutrition into daily life4.
Why should Nutritional Education programs be implemented in the work place? Twenty percent of American adults are obese, and over 50 percent are overweight in the state of Missouri1. There is a significant correlation between food choice and obesity. Adults spend the largest part of their non-sleeping hours at work. Consequently, their coworkers and the food available to them at work can greatly influence eating habits. Changing what is offered at work can encourage employees to make healthier decisions, which in turn could help compensate for poor nutrition decisions made at home or help individuals start a healthier lifestyle all around.
A second reason that makes the workplace a great location to teach nutritional education is that individuals do not need to take extra time out of the day to fit it in. Another incentive for businesses to have healthier employees is that it accounts for less sick days, increased attentiveness of the workers, and greater overall productivity.
Worksite Nutrition Programs Eating healthy at work can potentially be one of the hardest things you face on a regular basis. With other priorities taking up time in our busy schedules, the importance of good nutrition has consistently been underestimated. Stress related eating is an unhealthy coping strategy brought on by depression or anxiety. Diverting oneself with a walk in the park or office rather than a bag of greasy potato chips might prevent emotional eating. When the need to eat happens, eat something healthy. Lack of time management is also a factor that prevents people from nutritious eating. People have to work, pick up kids and drive to and from practices. They use the excuse “I went through the drive through because I did not have time to make anything today”. Suggestions for avoiding the fast food restaurants are shopping for groceries as a family, selecting foods low in fat and sugar, planning meals and snacks before leaving home and attempt to eat around the dinner table as a family. It is crucial for people know how to fit proper nutrition into their stressful and busy lives. Years of poor food choices can contribute to other risk factors in causing significant health problems. Fortunately, there are resources for working individuals to aid in the process of adopting a healthier diet. More and more businesses are utilizing worksite nutrition programs to increase the health of their employees. If your place of work does not have a program in place, you could consider suggesting a nutrition program. If it is not practical or possible for a worksite program to be adopted, then there are options for independent programs. The following are examples of worksite nutrition programs that have been successfully used by institutions and by individuals:
Program I: 5 A Day The Color Way (http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=8) This is a program that an employer can purchase for the company as a whole. Purchase of this program includes nutrition consultants, access to catalog products, and recipes for dishes that incorporate more fruits and vegetables. Integrating colorful foods into lunch and snack items is an essential focus of this program. It also suggests meetings and seminars as being places where more vegetables and fruits can be served. With the catalog in 5 A Day The Color Way the company gets reduced prices for the recommended kinds of foods, thus making them more affordable for the employees.
Program II: California Fit Business Kit (http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/CPNS/Pages/WorksiteFitBusinessKit.aspx) This is a great comprehensive program that helps employers change the environment of the employee so that healthy choices come easily. This program has employees answer a few questions to understand the individual needs at the worksite. What kinds of foods are brought to meetings or placed in the staff lounge? Do the vending machines offer any healthy choices? Are there stairs at your workplace? Do you take the stairs? Are there any worksite fitness programs or discounted gym memberships available? Do you think others at work would be interested in these clubs? All of these questions assess the workplace environment. The assessment can determine needs specific to the worksite that should be addressed.
Program III: Portion Plate (http://www.theportionplate.com/abouttheplate.html) The Portion Plate is just that, a plate that labels the portion guidelines of a meal according to American Medical Association. The Plate is sectioned into three parts. The largest of the three sections takes up one-half of the plate and is for vegetables. The second section is for starches and makes up one-fourth of the plate. Examples of starches include bread, rice, cereal, pasta, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. It is also suggested to use whole grains instead of refined (white) grains. The last one-fourth of the plate is for proteins, such as lean meats, beans, and fish.
Independent Program There is a simple way to incorporate one or all of the programs listed above into your workplace. Your best bet to limit the temptation for unhealthy options is to prepare your meals before you get to work. This will require a bit of planning on your part. Start with the portion plate and prepare a lunch (or meal) that meets the plate's guidelines. Then look at your meal and add two snacks that would help fulfill the 5 A Day The Color Way guidelines. Being diligent and repetitive with this every day will surely get you on the right track to achieving better nutrition. If you have kids who also pack their lunches, this would be the perfect opportunity to have a friendly competition to see who can pack the most color or who can stay within the portion plates lines the best.