Business of Well-being

Nutrition: The Ideal Foundation for Employee Wellness

When it comes to the health of your employees, diet and nutrition offer an ideal foundation for your organization's wellness efforts, as they can pay the greatest potential dividends to you and your workforce. The reason for this is simple: diet and nutrition directly affect the health of everyone within your organization in crucial ways. Scientific research indicates that dietary improvements enhance your employees' present and future health as well as potentially reducing their risk for a number of costly, chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Indeed, several studies published in 2006 and 2009 issues of They identified diet as more important than physical activity in the evolution of obesity and these chronic diseases. Therefore, a sound nutrition-based wellness program provides you with a unique opportunity to reduce your organization's healthcare expenses, improve the health of the greatest number of employees, and significantly lessen their need for medical procedures and maintenance drugs. In addition, you can decrease absenteeism rates and raise employee engagement, satisfaction and loyalty levels.

Key Features of a Sound Program

So, what should your primary considerations be when choosing a nutrition-based wellness program or assessing your current initiative? And how can you ensure that you'll get measurable results? First, it might seem elemental but it's worth noting that programs based on and supported by science are your best options. There are lots of so-called wellness experts, so be sure that the providers you're considering truly live up to that designation.

Additionally, the best nutrition-based programs address participants' total health-not diet alone-and help them make informed choices about all aspects of their well being. These programs also help participants gain a clear understanding of their particular behaviors and risks so that they can set realistic health goals and make solid progress toward achieving them. To accomplish all of this, the programs you consider must deliver the following important features:

  • Initial biometric screenings and health assessments for all employees and significant others. These initial measurements offer invaluable teaching moments for program participants, as many of them typically do not have a sound understanding of their own health status, risk factors or vital statistics. In addition, establishing this baseline data is a must for program participants to recognize improvements and remain motivated by them.
  • Personalized action plans. All participants should receive personalized action plans based on the results of their biometric screenings, health assessments and considering their personal health goals. These plans should provide information that is easy to understand and implement.
  • Personal coaching by a credentialed professional: Guidance from a credentialed expert, such as a registered dietician, is imperative to your employees' success. One-on-one coaching, for example, has proven to deliver 2-times more participant weight loss than information-only, web-based programs. What's more, your health coaches should be well-trained in behavior change techniques; this is a meaningful distinction as nutritional knowledge alone is usually not enough to guide employees toward lasting lifestyle changes.
  • Online diet and activity tracking tools. These tools should allow employees to precisely monitor their diets and physical activity, learn about the nutritional value of the foods they eat (and should be eating), and choose from a wide variety of healthy eating plans. The online nature of these tools enable your employees to stay motivated and monitor their progress 24/7-whenever it best fits into their busy schedules. This level of convenience is a major contributor to getting results, as is the user-friendliness of the tool. If the tool is too difficult to use or understand, your program will fail.
  • Ongoing educational aids. Once employees engage with the program, they'll need support to stay with it and to understand the many implications of their dietary habits on their overall health. Your program should offer them the right mix of articles, podcasts, webinars, presentations, workshops and other learning aids.
  • Program customization. Your organization and its culture are unique, so cookie-cutter programs simply won't deliver maximum results. You should be able to customize many of the elements of your program to suit your corporate culture and organizational needs-as well as the needs your employees. The online tools and the communications that promote the program to employees should also be highly customizable and a strong reflection of your organization.

What Else Can You Do?

In addition to partnering with a nutrition-based wellness program provider, there are other simple and practical actions you can take to encourage better dietary habits among employees. These include offering healthy food options in cafeterias, making healthy food items available at reduced or subsidized prices, and substituting healthy food items for empty-calorie foods in vending machines. Also consider healthier food choices for your catered business meetings.

You also should create opportunities to reinforce health consciousness in your workplace through steady employee communications, worksite "challenges" and educational workshops and other events. Also consider inviting employees' family members, as they have a tremendous influence on your employees' health-related behaviors away from the office-as well as a significant impact on your healthcare costs, too.

Obviously, a nutrition-based program is only one aspect of your comprehensive wellness initiatives and your efforts to create a culture of wellness. But because a sound diet is so closely linked to overall health and the prevention of chronic disease-and because 100 percent of your employee population needs to eat-nutrition offers a logical and compelling foundation for your wellness initiatives.

By launching a nutrition-based program backed by science and based on the key features identified above, you can reduce healthcare costs, slash absenteeism and create a more productive, engaged and loyal workforce.

About DSM Personalized Nutrition

DSM Personalized Nutrition is a U.S. based subsidiary of DSM (Euronext:DSM), a global leader in nutrition. Its GPNS, Global Personal Nutrition System, is a comprehensive, nutrition-based health and wellness program offered to employers as part of a whole-health approach to reducing health care costs, improving productivity, and positively affecting employee morale. GPNS is designed to help employees achieve their specific health goals, and improve their health, by implementing small, yet meaningful dietary and lifestyle changes.

About the Author

President of DSM Personalized Nutrition, Michael Tarino possesses an ardent conviction in the power of well-supported individuals to act as catalysts for transformative change in the health system. Prior to his work at DSM Personalized Nutrition, Mr. Tarino served as chief executive officer of Definity Health, a UnitedHealth Group company, the nation's leading consumer-driven health plan administrator, where he grew the business to serve more than 2.7 million members.

In previous roles at Definity Health, he designed the company's consumer experience, demonstrating that a health plan could be an excellent consumer services organization. Mike also brought innovations to the marketplace that improved people's health, secured greater returns on health investments and simplified consumer experiences within the health system.

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