This Wednesday: My 10 pieces of unsolicited advice for how to foster healthier eating habits in the workplace
In law school, we took “issue-spotter” exams, which were actually kind of fun (as law-school exams go). An issue-spotter exam presents a long tale of legal woes, and students must spot every issue that arises—the law-school version of a child’s “find the hidden pictures” puzzle.
A while back, I was speaking at a big company, and as I was shown around the corporate campus, I did a mental issue-spotter.
What steps would make it easier for employees to eat more healthfully without even thinking about it? I amused myself by writing an imaginary ten-point memo.
1. At the reception desk, put all the candy in an opaque container with a lid, with a small sign that says “Candy.”
2. Don’t provide “health bars” or “energy bars” that are really candy bars in disguise. (Just because the label says it’s “healthy” doesn’t mean it is healthy.)
3. Put doors on the office kitchens. The slightest big of inconvenience shapes our habits; plus, if we don’t see food cues, we’re less likely to eat.
4. Set up a partition to divide each kitchen in two. Dedicate the section closer to the door to healthy selections; put less-healthy food in the back section, further from the door, so people would have to make a special effort to get there. Ideally, they’d have to pass another partition or cross an actual red line painted on the floor—and they wouldn’t be able to see those tempting foods unless they were in that area.
5. On the posters that promote healthy foods, stop conflating “fruits” and “vegetables.”
6. Don’t put candies and nuts in bins that pour out their contents in a stream. Instead, provide containers that dispense one small serving at a time. Or better, serve those items in small, pre-packaged bags. That helps people monitor how much they’re eating.
8. Offer fewer varieties of unhealthy foods.
9. Provide a tracking system to allow people to note their daily snack intake (voluntary).
10. Don’t provide trays in the cafeteria. Many colleges have eliminated cafeteria trays; when students can’t easily load up on food and must make multiple trips, they take less. One study found that going trayless cut food waste by as much as 25-30 %, and I bet people eat less, too.
If you could offer some unsolicited advice about your workplace — about how to make it healther — what would you say?