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Creating a Corporate Travel Culture of Healthy Eating

Natasha Léger

A man working on a laptop waiting for the bus

With rising rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, come higher healthcare costs for employers. As a result, corporate wellness services have become a $2 billion industry[i]. Corporate business travel, on the other hand, is a $274 billion industry.

Half of men and a third of women are projected to contract some form of cancer in their lifetime. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, business travelers are at much higher risk for obesity, cancer, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and overall poor health.

Business Travelers

Business travel is often viewed as a necessary evil. Eating unhealthy foods on the road has also been viewed as part of the bargain of this necessary evil. There are an estimated 30 to 40 million business travelers in the U.S. alone. Nearly 30 percent of the working adult population in the U.S. is at much higher risk for cancer and overall poor health simply because travel is part of their job description.

Business travelers are subject to additional environmental stress than their non-travelling peers, which increases their health risks. Disruption in exercise routine and eating unhealthy foods while traveling are major contributors—at the airport, conferences, business breakfast, lunch and dinner, and eating on the go. Most corporate hotels now have gyms, so as long as someone can fit exercise clothes into their luggage, and can manage 30-60 minutes to workout. The exercise piece can often be addressed by choice of hotel (generally approved by the Corporate Travel Program). But what about eating healthy? How are companies tackling the nutrition component of health for their traveling employees?

Corporate Programs

Corporate health programs focus on reducing employer healthcare costs through incentives, in-house facilities and education that promote healthy lifestyle choices. Incentives include rewards for participating in a wellness program, achieving certain health outcomes or metrics, or progress towards desired health outcomes such as, a targeted blood pressure, cholesterol, weight or body mass index (BMI) reading. These incentives or rewards include reduced insurance premiums, cash/gift cards, or contributions to health savings accounts. The cost of corporate wellness programs is estimated to increase to $594 per employee as employers recognize the importance of investing in preventative health initiatives.[iv] Unfortunately, corporate wellness programs don’t help the business traveler when it comes to eating healthy on the road.

Corporate travel programs focus on controlling costs through outsourcing, consolidation and corporate discount rates for airfare, hotel, car rental and car services. There are 456 million business trips taken per year in the United States[v] for an estimated 30-40 million business travelers. The average daily per diem for food in the US is $88 per day.[vi] A sales person, account manager, consultant, or product manager for example with a 50% travel requirement would file expense reports for meals totaling approximately $8,448 per year.

So what happens when employees take advantage of all the corporate wellness programs, but it is the business travel that wreaks havoc on their health? Business travelers have been neglected when it comes to corporate wellness programs and creating a corporate travel culture of healthy eating.

How can Companies Create a Corporate Travel Culture of Healthy Eating?

Creating a corporate travel culture of healthy eating involves changing behavior at the company, employee and food provider level. Any type of corporate culture change can be challenging, but here are three ways to kick-start a culture of healthy eating.

A New Word for Food

The very first step in creating a corporate travel culture of healthy eating is defining what it is that people should be eating to boost their immune system, promote energy and reduce the risk of illness and disease. This starts with changing our vocabulary.

Food is now a terrible word to describe what we should be eating. Food:

  • Has been adulterated with chemicals and genetically engineered;
  • Has been engineered by processed food companies to make you eat more fat, salt and sugar than your body can sustainably process without breaking down; and
  • Has been marketed as “healthy, low salt, low fat, sugar-free, natural” to convince you that it is good for you, when just the opposite is often the unfortunate truth.

It is no wonder no one knows what to eat anymore, and even worse, when people think they are eating “healthy”, they still find themselves getting sick.

Change the word from food to nourishment, and peoples perspective on what to eat will change forever. Nourishment is the new food. Nourishment is non-chemically treated, non-genetically modified, unprocessed food that has high nutrient value that benefits the body and is prepared in a way that preserves the nutrients.

Once employees have been educated on nourishment, employers can create incentives through travel expense policies for employees to seek and find nourishment. As an example, those companies that have already created wellness incentive programs tied to grocery bills, could add the meals expense to the program.

Business Breakfast, Lunch and Dinners

Business travel inevitably means maximizing “meeting” time and that often robs employees of a quiet, healthy meal. Employers can provide employees with recommendations or suggestions on how to find nourishment appropriate restaurants for business meetings. Companies responsible for organizing conferences, or sponsoring conferences, can influence the food being served by requiring (strongly requesting) that all ingredients are organic and non-GMO.

Corporate Travel Programs

Companies can start requiring (strongly suggesting) that their preferred hotels and airlines serve organic and non-GMO meals.

Significant portions of business traveler blues are attributed to the feeling of helplessness when it comes to eating healthy while on business trips. Companies can make a difference in business travelers’ health. And with a simple shift in vocabulary can launch a corporate travel culture of eating healthy!

About the Author

Natasha Léger is an international trade attorney turned global strategy consultant to start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. She is Founder and President of ITF Advisors, a strategy advisory firm and co-Found and Editor of LBx  Journal,  a location intelligence magazine. Natasha lives in Denver, Colorado where she is mastering her nouri lifestyle and organic gardening skills. Natasha is passionate about living a healthy, happy life while being a road warrior and has authored Travel Healthy: A Road Warrior’s Guide to Eating Healthy.

[i]Corporate Wellness Services in the US: Market Research Report, IBIS World, December 2013.

[ii] 2014 Business Travel Survey, Business Travel News, May 26, 2014, p.22.

[iii]Catherine A. Richards, Andrew G. Rundle. Business Travel and Self-rated Health, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011

[iv] National Business Group on Health Survey

[v] 2014 Business Travel Survey, Business Travel News, May 26, 2014, p.22

[vi] 2014 Corporate Travel Index, Business Travel News, March 17, 2014, p.


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