In 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
Employees Can’t Eat Healthy Foods if They’re Not Available
- 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.
Market the Good Stuff: Good Choices Shouldn’t Be “Special Request”
- 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.
- 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
Get Accurate Calories, Portion Size, Nutrient Labeling at the Point of Service.
- 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.
Tackle Portion Size as This May Be Our Major Nutrition Problem
- 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.
- 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
Discount the Good Stuff
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.