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Creating the Opportunities to Eat Well at Work
Table promoting whole grainsIn 2006, Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) set out to create a culture of wellness internally when the CHS LiveWELL program was introduced for employees. Food was and is considered a key component of a healthy lifestyle, so CHS LiveWELL included onsite cafeterias in its wellness goals from the start. After 6 years, the healthy food environment initiative has made great progress even though they haven’t removed fryers or soda machines. Instead, the focus has been on a path of moderation that acknowledges “all foods can fit” while emphasizing the need to have healthy options readily available. Here’s some of what we recommend:

Create Effective Partnerships 
  • Include both foodservice staff and administration as a part of the team from day one.
  • Input from employees is invaluable so create employee champions to guide the process.
  • North Carolina Prevention Partners is a non-profit program with lots of resources gleaned from North Carolina success stories.
Fresh fruit and dipEmployees Can’t Eat Healthy Foods if They’re Not Available
  • Increase opportunities for employees to choose vegetables, fruit and whole grains at every location where food is served.
  • Ask for fresh cut fruit and whole seasonal fruit to be offered at all times.
  • Offer vegetable sides or premade green salads with sandwiches.
Market the Good Stuff: Good Choices Shouldn’t Be “Special Request”
  • Make whole wheat rolls the default at the grill, refined white rolls by special request.
  • Water and lower calorie beverages at eye level in coolers.
  • Fresh fruit at check out instead of treats.
  • Send out advertising of the healthy choice entrees, avoid promoting unhealthy meal deals.

Set Clear Policies

  • Since 2006 trans fat has been eliminated. Our foodservice partner made it purchasing policy.
  • Consider policies that mandate availability of vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat.
Get Accurate Calories, Portion Size, Nutrient Labeling at the Point of Service.
  • Remember that the calories and portion size labels need to represent what is actually served or the calorie labeling is meaningless.
  • Calorie labeling will help employees make an informed selection so they can clearly understand the number of calories in the entrée they choose.
Tackle Portion Size as This May Be Our Major Nutrition Problem
  • Assess the portion sizes of high sales items in your facility; try to reduce the portion or calories in these items.
  • FDA Food labeling portion sizes can be used as a gauge or starting point. Smaller pastries and bread products are available. CHS’s pudding parfaits were once more than 16 ounces, now an 8 ounces serving but still not the FDA portion which is 4 ounces.

Consider “Stealth” Health

  • Make sure that “behind the scenes” healthy ingredients are used in preparation.
  • Ask for leaner ground beef (10% fat rather than 20%).
  • Ask that light mayonnaise be used in prepared salads.
Discount the Good Stuff
  • Small discounts of 10 -20 cents can help promote the better choice.
  • Water and diet soda are cheaper than regular soda.
  • Frequent buyer cards for vegetables (buy 10 get one free!) or your healthy meal promotion.
Have Fun!
  • Sponsor new recipe taste testing.
  • Bring in a display of seasonal fruit for sale or have an onsite mini-farmers market.
  • Have a weight loss contest! Offer lower calorie meals during the challenge, and keep them around after it’s done.


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