Read the latest ideas and best practices from our experts on infusing a culture of health.
Can food labels change employee health?
Posted on Nov 12, 2012 | Written by Rosie Gonzalez | Comments (0)
A recent study on food labels has positive implications for employee health programs. The study found shoppers who stop to read food labels are thinner than those who don’t take the time to do so.
This is important because it affirms that when the right information—through food labels, wellness programs or other education—is presented at the right time, it can change behavior.
The study collected 25,000 observations on health, eating and shopping habits. The average body mass index among participants was 26.3 for men and 25.5 for women. Among those who read food labels, the BMIs dropped to 25.9 and 25.3 for males and females. Women who skip over food labels weighed about nine pounds more than women who didn’t.
The challenge, of course, lies in getting people to read the labels. To do this, I see two ways to nudge people to be more informed about their food choices:
- There is a need to provide a framework that helps people read food labels so they can identify good choices. Health coaching can help with this, for example, as the personalized interactions can identify gaps in understanding and provide education around nutrition.
- There is a need to help make reading food labels easier. Interestingly, we see several trends within the food industry already working towards this. For example, some grocery stores are now using a very simple system that rates the overall nutritional value of each food and simply gives it a number between 1 and 100. The higher the number, the more nutritional value the food has, making choosing healthier food easier.
Within the workplace, we find employers can start to nudge employees toward healthy food choices with even very basic education. For example, we have several clients that use color-coded (red, yellow and green) serving utensils in their on-site cafeterias to steer employees toward foods that are healthier to eat.
So what about you? What are some of the ways that your workplace wellness program is successfully helping employees make smarter food choices? Please share your comments below.
Rosie is a nutrition and health science specialist. She has been working in the corporate wellness field for seven years. She brings more than 20 years of experience as a registered and licensed dietitian in the health industry, working in research with a focus on nutrition and cancer prevention, counseling individuals in the area of weight management.