Americans are overweight, and the epidemic is getting worse. As an employer, obesity can significantly impact your workers. Did you know that people who consume ample amounts of sugar and carbohydrates at lunch are more likely to be sluggish and unfocused in the afternoon? Is there a way that you can encourage healthy eating without eliminating their other options?

Think about your last company meeting. Management almost always provides donuts and coffee for these early morning occasions. Doughnuts have become an acceptable breakfast food, but is it really the best choice? What about adding some nutritional options like fresh fruit and oatmeal to the mix? While you can’t force your employees to eat healthy, giving them alternatives encourages it without saying a word.

Give Healthy Alternatives

Many companies have forced healthier options and left their staff in an uproar. The key is never to remove things but to give them other choices. A business recently decided that they would pay for a meal each week for their staff members. On the menu was a vegetarian selection that seemed to be highly favored among some traditional high-fat offerings.

Much to the company’s surprise, the vegetarian meals were favored on the order forms. However, when lunch was finished, much of the vegetarian options were wasted. It wasn’t a win for the company or the employees. When the meals were before them, the unhealthy options were more appealing.

Educating your employees about the importance of proper nutrition and good health should be done slowly. You can offer incentives for those that are willing to try an employee-based weight loss program or to give up pop and coffee for a week. Make things fun like a contest, and more people will get involved.

Don’t Become the Food Police

The Society for Human Resources Management recently conducted a study. They found that many employees feel that their employer becomes the food police when they bring health into the workplace. There is a fine line between the two. The goal should be to support health and wellness, and leave the personal options up to staff members.

The easiest ways to promote health is at company parties, meetings, and outside events. Add some healthy options to the cafeteria, vending machines, and buffets during special occasions. It seems these options already exist at most more substantial companies, but only 49 percent of businesses in the Midwest have any policy to promote healthy eating.

The Personal Space Issue

Employees can get feisty if they feel that their employer is invading their personal space. Within this space is what they wear, what they eat, and their work. Each cubicle is an area where the employee is free to express themselves. While you maintain some control over these spaces, you cannot control the person’s every move.

Though you may be wishing for the day that the tower of pop cans will leave from the recycle bin in the cafeteria, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to bring about change. The employee always has the freedom of choice in what they consume, but the employer can merely help them to make better choices by offering suitable alternatives.

Implementing Positive Changes

Most employees will take French fries over a salad any day of the week. To make things increasingly difficult, the suggested daily vegetable serving has been increased from three to nine. Shockingly, most people aren’t even getting two servings.

Why not consider adding dark, leafy greens, cheeses, a vegetable tray, and a variety of lunch meats at the next company luncheon? Those that choose to make a salad need some low-fat dressing options too. The goal is not to control what your employees are eating, but you should offer them some healthy choices also.