Healthy eating is an essential ingredient in the recipe to achieve The Wellness MoonshotTM: A World Free of Preventable Disease. It also fuels a more productive workforce and well lives. Use these ideas about eating during June and beyond to foster vitality and wellbeing for your coworkers, your family and yourself.
“Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.”
It’s sobering: We’ve arrived at a time when three billion of us are malnourished across the planet. That’s 40 percent of humankind. We are overeating diets that are nutrient-deficient, yet we do not have systems in place to make food the vitalizing force it can be worldwide. The recent Global Burden of Disease study, examining close to 200 countries, shows our poor diets are linked with one in five of all adult deaths from noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, many cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Across the world, we are taking in too much sodium, red meat, sweetened beverages, processed foods and trans fats, and we are not getting enough whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fiber, omega-3 oils, polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium and fruits. As the English proverb suggests, it’s time to use our knives and forks (and hands, chopsticks, tongs, skewers and spoons) as a pathway to better health and wellbeing.
Making Sense of the Glut of Advice
When it comes to figuring out how, when and what to eat, however, the marketplace is crowded with advice. Intermittent fasting, keto diet, Mediterranean diet, portion control strategies, plant-based meal plans and nutritional genomics are several of the hundreds of eating methods vying for our attention (and wallets). Some approaches, such as the Ornish diet and Ayurveda, go beyond food to emphasize meditation, conscious breathing, rest, exercise, positive relationships and additional lifestyle components. Others, such as the planetary health diet and Regenerative Global Diet, have larger aims to revolutionize our food systems altogether to improve food security and nutrition for a thriving global population and a sustainable planet.
Amidst this noise, what makes sense for you and your organization?
Chew On These Actions for Healthier Eating
Let’s start with the pragmatic: Human beings can’t outperform a bad diet. What we eat influences our physical energy, emotional balance and mental performance. If we make the right choices, our plates can lead to less stress and more vitality, two goals many people and employers are actively seeking. As a leader, ask your team to take these actions and make healthier eating a part of your leadership toolkit:
- Track it. The adage “if you bite it, write it” applies. For (at least) seven days, log everything you eat and drink. (One of the many food diary apps can help.) Note the type and amount of what you take in, when you ate or drank it, where you were and with whom, plus any activity you were doing (e.g., working or watching TV). Also note your levels of stress, energy and productivity during the day. After the week, step back from your log to look for patterns: How do your eating habits affect your mental, emotional and physical state—and as a result, your ability to handle stress, connect with others, and get work done? Better yet, do this tracking activity with your family or team to make positive commitments toward better eating together. When it comes to eating, tracking helps build mindfulness and accountability and is a proven strategy for achieving weight management and other eating goals.
- Don’t change everything all at once. Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.” Our deepest identities are often tied up in our connection with food. Instead of trying to overhaul the way you eat, commit to smaller changes—having a bowl of fruit rather than candy on the table, snacking on salted nuts instead of chips, eating more plant-based meals, having water always on hand—to nudge you and your team or family toward greater, self-empowered wellness. Those smaller shifts build a new foundation for healthier ways of living and working.
- Look at your organization’s healthcare through the lens of eating. Plus, invite employees to do the same personally. For example, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart disease are among the medical costs that a supportive eating program can help address. Also, check out emerging innovations that bridge food, medicine and wellness—from food prescriptions and pharmacies, medically-tailored and personalized nutrition to green cuisine crusades and regenerative farming standards. Think in terms of win-win: How could healthier eating lead to financial and health gains for your employees and the company?
- Be sure your food culture reflects your values. Do people take a break from work to eat mindfully? Are healthier food and drink options readily accessible in work spaces and team events? Do meal breaks provide a positive social environment? Is your food system sustainable, i.e., does it reduce the miles it takes to stock the workplace cafeteria, prioritize local and organic produce, reduce and recycle food packaging, and minimize food waste? Your food culture reflects your values as an employer; improve it to foster camaraderie and optimal performance at work.
- Widen your ideas about eating. Share these powerful visuals about what the world eats, food diversity and resilience, food consumption in families around the globe, and creating a sustainable food future. Plus, explore the dietary guidelines of the countries where your organization operates. Create a broader understanding about food and its impact by asking your team: What wellbeing leadership promises will we make to promote healthy eating for employees, customers, partners and the communities we serve?
Share Your Commitment
Take a picture of yourself and others, at work or home, making a commitment to healthier eating. Post it on social media with the #wellnessmoonshot tag, and we’ll spread your inspiration to others.
RESOURCES TO SUPPORT YOU
- Mental Wellness Whitepaper, Global Wellness Institute
- Sustainability Initiative, Global Wellness Institute
- Wellness at Work Initiative, Global Wellness Institute
- “Nutrition Gets Very Personalized” wellness trend, Global Wellness Summit