Eating pizza

Workplace Nutrition Challenges

18 January 2022

Good nutrition is an essential component of workplace wellbeing. It is easy to understand why considering most of us consume the majority of our calories during the working day. 

A US study from 2018, when the majority of employees were still office based, showed almost a quarter of employees bought food at their place of work. It also found that food consumed at work whether bought or obtained for free was often high in empty calories. The most popular foods included pizza, soft drinks, cookies and cakes.


There was a recommendation that wellness programmes improve the dietary quality of food provided at work. 

Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining workplace wellbeing. There are many well-known long-term benefits of healthy eating like reducing the risk of illness, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. What is not as often reported are the short-term benefits of eating well, especially during the working day. They include:

  • Improved productivity
  • Increased energy
  • Healthier immune system 
  • Better sleep
  • Improved mental health

All these feed into our overall wellbeing and ability to focus on getting work done. The best news is, changing to a healthier diet does not take long to have an impact. A UK study showed that employees who ate more healthily for a two week period had more feelings of purpose at work. 


Staying hydrated is also a core element of our overall wellbeing. Our bodies depend on water to survive. Every organ in our bodies requires it to function correctly. Ideally, we should drink about 2 litres of water per day but we require much more if living in a hot climate or when doing exercise.


Fortunately, healthy eating in or outside the workplace is not too difficult. The World Health Organisation classify a healthy diet as one that contains:

  • Lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains [at least 400g per day]
  • Less than 10% from free sugars i.e. sugars found naturally in sweet foods like honey, fruit juice or added to processed food and drinks
  • Less than 30% energy from fats
  • Most fats should be unsaturated, found in fish, nuts, sunflower, olive oil 
  • Less than 10% of fats should be saturated found in meat, butter
  • Avoid processed foods and foods containing trans fats 
  • Less than 5g of salt per day
  • Providing education on eating well 
  • Offering fruit
  • Ensuring catering contains whole foods and lots of vegetables
  • Swapping pizza for sushi or similar healthier options

Make healthy eating during the workday fun with workplace nutritional challenges. Whether it is part of a healthy eating week or as a team building exercises there are lots of ways to gamify healthy eating:

1.             Lunchtime potluck

Encourage everyone to make a large portion of something new or different for lunch that contains lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes or wholegrains to share, Covid-19 restrictions allowing.    

2.            Hydration challenge

Even mild dehydration can make completing tasks that require attention to detail more difficult. Encourage people who think they may not drink enough water with a hydration challenge. There are lots of free apps that’ll help track the amount of water everyone drinks and reminds them to drink throughout the day. There’s an element of trust involved in a challenge like this but hopefully honesty will prevail. 

3.            Healthy Bake Off

You may be familiar with the bake-off TV shows where competitors produce a wide range of sweet treats? Make it healthy eating friendly by encouraging employees to bake something with a healthy slant. Beetroot brownies, avocado cake or courgette bread are a delicious way to incorporate vegetables into baking for a healthier version of the cakes we know and love. 

4.            Bring your Own Lunch

Encourage employees to bring their own lunch to work. When we bring lunches from home, they are more likely to contain:

  • More vegetables
  • Less fat and salt
  • Reduces the chance of a 3pm slump

It also has the added bonus of saving everyone some money.  Offer an incentive to those who bring their lunch into the office for a month. It might be entry into a draw for some sports clothes or equipment. Hopefully this will be long enough for people to build a habit and see the health and financial benefits. 

5.            Try a New Recipe 

It is easy for all of us to get stuck in the rut of cooking the same things each week. Encourage employees to diversify and try something different and share reviews of the results. The challenge could be by theme for example, Indian, Mexican or Thai food or by incorporating a particular ingredient like pumpkin, dark chocolate or harissa paste. 

Download our Feel Good Food e-book filled with wholesome recipes for some healthy inspiration.

The most important element to impart is that eating well does not have to be boring. Far from it, a balanced diet should be varied including all kinds of food in moderation. It is also worth noting, nutritional challenges should be focused on eating healthily and not connected to weight loss or forcing employees to eat certain foods. It is simply about educating and informing employees how to fuel their bodies well. 


Maintaining the health and wellbeing of your employees clearly matters to you. If you have employees working abroad as expats, ensure they have access to  private healthcare and wellbeing support  while they are on assignment with international health insurance.