March means more than spring's arrival.
March ushers in the promise of spring whether any traces of snow remain or not. This third month of the year is also known on the Canadian health calendar as Nutrition Month.
In pursuit of a healthy bottomline.
With employees spending more than 1/3 of their lives at work or 60 percent of their waking hours per day in the office, it is no wonder that employers continue to look for ways to promote wellness through healthy eating in the workplace. Improved health and well-being can give a boost to productivity levels while driving up business performance. A myriad of studies show that healthy employees are 20 percent more productive than unhealthy ones. Additionally, employees who make proper dietary choices and focus on healthy weight management report fewer absences as well as short and long term disability claims.
Feed the gut, feed the brain.
Healthy eating also positively affects the brain. Since both the brain and body are made up of water, air and food, ensuring they are supplied with the right food is key. The body also has a second brain -- known as the gut-- where an entire nervous system exists. The gut and brain send messages back and forth to each other and when the gut isn't supplied with healthy ingredients, it can't send the right messages to the brain, thereby leaving it drained of what it needs to optimize its ability to focus and concentrate.
Brain food takes the form of protein, vegetables from all the colours of the rainbow, fish, as well as hemp, flaxseed, chia seeds. It's also important to avoid dips in blood sugar by eating brain food every 3 to 4 hours.
Feeding a healthy brain means increasing proteins and the key ingredients that fuel its neurotransmitters. The brain doesn't work well after the gut tries to digest non-nutritive, manufactured foods that have been altered through processing, starching and frying. Baked goods, sweeteners, too much caffeine, sugar, pop and alcohol also send the brain the wrong messages. They can make a person more anxious and may even lead to mental health issues such as depression.
What's in your vending machine?
Swap out the pop. Too often, it is easy to overlook what the workplace vending machines offers employees who seek a quick energy boost. The American Academy of Neurology reported that, aside from harming one's physical health, those who drank more than 4 cans of pop a day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression or other mental health problems.
Frequently stocked with a plethora of sugary soft drink choices, one of the easiest and best ways to influence healthy choices is by swapping out pop in the vending machines for water, fruit and/or vegetable juice (no added sugar), and carbonated water. These beverages offer employees an alternative free of calories, sugar and caffeine.
Fruit instead of candy bars. Those looking to help employees be happier at work may look no further than swapping out candy bars for fruit or offering free fruit in break rooms or beverage stations. Making it easy to choose a piece of fruit instead of something fattening from the vending machine not only is an important cancer prevention strategy, but for each fruit or veg portion eaten, there is a 40 percent greater level of protection against heart disease and stroke.
Employees who are healthier are also more productive. They promote a better culture and corporate image too. While making efforts to influence healthy eating at work is always a good thing, making the most of March as Nutrition Month provides ample opportunities to take advantage of many featured nutrition challenges. With so many resources at our fingertips, we're eager to share them with you and invite you to contact us. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.