Nourish or Nosh? Food at Work.

January 22 2018 / by Mari Ryan

Food is essential for life. Food is comfort. Food is love. Food is social. Food is cultural. Food is many things to many people. At work, food comes in many shapes and forms. In a previous blog, we noted that food plays many roles at work and can be deeply embedded in the organization’s culture. It is used to recognize and reward employees (company breakfasts), foster socialization and interaction between employees (ice cream socials), provide convenient sources of energy (vending machine) or it can be a perk (free snacks).

In a recent survey of employees, six of the eight biggest obstacles to achieving their health goals were food related. The following infographic shows some of these obstacles.


One of the eight pillars in the WELL Building Standard is nourishment. The nourishment requirements include the availability of fresh, wholesome foods, limits on highly processed and artificial ingredients and a food environment and culture supportive of healthful eating habits. The FitWel certification system recommends strategies for nutrition that include approaches for food and beverage guidelines and cafeteria standards, incentives for healthy food options, and access to water.

We know that nutrition plays an important role in maintaining good health, preventing chronic disease and helping manage weight. Yet it appears we’ve developed some habits and culture at work that may be detrimental to your employee’s wellbeing.

Here are a few steps that can be incorporated into a strategy to create a healthy workplace that provides high quality, nourishing foods.

  • Healthy Food Service Guidelines. Larger organizations can implement guidelines and standards for foods and beverages across your food service facilities. The Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities is a comprehensive example and tool
  • Healthy Meeting Guidelines. Adopt healthy meeting guidelines for providing healthy choices at any event where the organization provides food. Helpful tools: Healthy Meeting and Event Guide.
  • Revisit the Vending Machines. Are your vending machines the candy store or does it contain nutritious options. Consider replacing the traditional vending machine with an option that provides fresh foods and healthy choices such as Lean Box.
  • Water is the Way. Replace sugar-sweetened beverages at all organization-sponsored events with plain water. Hand out water bottles to create a culture of drinking sufficient amounts of water during the day and to limit individual serving, plastic bottles.
  • Host a Farmer’s Market. If you have a large enough employee population, you can host a farmer’s market. An employer in my community did this and opened it up to the entire community.

The food an organization provides in the workplace can help define the culture and demonstrate the value of wellbeing at work. Nourishing food supports employee wellbeing.

Topics: Personal health, worksite wellbeing, workplace wellbeing, Massachusetts health, wellness, work environment, employee wellness, food, nutrition, lunch, office lunch, lunch break

Mari Ryan

Written by Mari Ryan

Mari Ryan is the CEO/founder of AdvancingWellness and is a recognized expert in the field of workplace well-being strategy.