How can we improve eating practices at the workplace to contribute to achieving optimal nutrition status for all South Africans? Unhealthy workplace eating behaviour is believed to be playing a role in South Africa’s burgeoning obesity problem. The 2012 South African Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES) showed local obesity levels have skyrocketed. The prevalence of overweight and obesity combined is now 65% for females and 31% for males.
This year’s National Nutrition Week runs from 9 to 15 October 2015 and is focusing on “Healthy Eating in the workplace”, aiming to encourage employees to make healthy food choices at the office, and employers and corporate food providers to make healthy meals easily available in the workplace. This campaign is a joint initiative by the Department of Health, The Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), the Nutrition Society of South Africa (NSSA), the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) and the Consumer Education Project of Milk SA (CEP).
Why NIOH supports and endorses this initiative
Meals employees eat at work influence their productivity and their risk of occupational conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer. “Many workers consume at least half of their meals and snacks during work hours. This makes the workplace an important setting to promote healthy eating by creating an environment where healthy food choices are readily accessible through canteens, function catering or vending machines,” says Lynn Moeng, Chief-Director: Health Promotion, Nutrition and Oral Health at the Department of Health.
- Ensure that there is a variety of foods available. For instance, meals for lunch should comprise one meat dish (with a vegetarian option), one starch option, two vegetable options, one fruit option and water. If a platter is served, this should include a mixture of fruits, vegetables, starches and meats rather than having meat-only or bread-only platters;
- Provide sandwiches made with an assortment of whole grain breads (wholewheat, seed, rye, brown), pita, buns/rolls or wraps;
- Choose lean meats for main meals, deli platters and sandwich fillings. Limit the use of processed meats like viennas and polony, as they are high in fat and salt;
- Provide vegetables prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt;
- Ensure inclusion of beans and legumes in dishes or as salads.
- Unflavoured and low-salt popcorn
- Low salt whole wheat crackers
- Unsalted nut trail mix
- Fruit in tubs (kiosks)
- Dried fruit, fruit rolls, fruit bars (no added sugar)
- Water, still or sparkling/soda water
- Tea, coffee (regular or decaffeinated), sugar/sugar substitutes, milk (low-fat, 2%, 1% fat or fat-free milk only)
- Low-fat UHT milk (200ml packs)
- Low-energy beverages i.e. light/zero/diet drinks (200ml)