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Healthy food equals a healthy workforce

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Workplaces are beginning to understand the importance of employee health, says Andy Badger, the managing director of Acquire Services

One in four meals is consumed outside the home, according to a report on foodservice management released this month by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), and the biggest area of growth within the industry is the trend for healthier options.

In fact, 100% of foodservice businesses surveyed by the BHA said that they are providing healthier alternatives and lower calorie options on their menus where possible: 94% are reducing salt while 88% are including more fruit and vegetables; 81% are reducing sugar; 69% including calorie labelling; and 88% focus on training chefs on cooking healthy options.

It’s clear that there is a new trend for employers investing in and taking responsibility for their workforce’s diets – and it’s about time. Recent reports from the British Heart Foundation claim that more than two fifths of workers in the UK believe that their job is having a negative effect on their lives, with stressful working conditions leading to poor lifestyle choices such as eating unhealthily, drinking and smoking excessively and avoiding exercise.

Worryingly, a third of workers surveyed said that they have put on weight directly because of their work and it’s no wonder with 60% of employees regularly doing unpaid overtime – meaning that they are not taking their full lunch-breaks, spending less time at home in the evenings preparing home-made meals and are either too tired or time-deprived to exercise.

Diseases linked to an unhealthy lifestyle include type 2 diabetes, heart disease and liver disease – not to mention high-cholesterol, high-blood pressure, obesity and even some cancers – which serves as a stark warning for business owners.

Health and wellness may be having a bit of a moment in the media spotlight, but for good reason, as 82% of companies with wellness programmes see reduced sickness absence and a 15% increase in output. Therefore, it’s essential that businesses ensure they are doing all they can to make healthier alternatives available for their staff and provide nutritional information which allows them to make well-informed decisions. It not only makes health sense, but business sense too.

Online tools, such as e-procurement platforms, can harness a huge range of in-depth information such as nutrient content, allergen content, fat content, salt levels, sugar and the origin of product. All this information can be easily accessed within integrated systems, making selecting healthy ingredients and products so much simpler. Working with a fully-integrated online procurement specialist which can understand operators’ buying dilemmas and help build healthy menus is just one of the many benefits.

All food accreditations – including Red Tractor, RSPCA and Fairtrade – can also be linked to products, making the process for selecting sustainable and green products much easier too. Gone are the days of having to sift through paperwork or pick up the phone to suppliers to ask all of these questions – instead, it’s available at the touch of a button.

Andy Badger