A Healthy Food & Beverage Toolkit for Companies

by Carrie Skogsberg
American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate

Practical action steps and suggestions that are easy for companies to apply

Workplaces can at times become traps for unhealthy behaviors. The average worker sits at a desk for the majority of the day and is often offered a variety of sweets, fatty foods and sugary beverages at meetings and in office vending machines.

The American Heart Association (AHA) believes everyone deserves to live a healthier, longer life, and wants to support meaningful, sustainable changes by meeting people where they are and considering the environment in which they work. The Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit was created to provide companies with the resources they need to create a culture of health in their organizations, while focusing on improving a company’s options for meetings, catered meals, snacks and vending.

“The toolkit helps companies to make the healthy choice the default choice,” says Amanda Kelley, community health director at the American Heart Association.

A 2008 workplace survey conducted by the AHA showed that employees participating in a workplace wellness program reported losing weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. The companies reported improved productivity, increased job satisfaction and lower absenteeism among employees. The AHA’s healthy workplace recommendations include:

  • Support healthier choices, provide leadership and role modeling, and create a culture of health. 
  • Offer nutritious food and beverage options. 
  • Offer physical activity opportunities that are relevant to the audience and environment to help people achieve at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. 
  • Provide a tobacco-free environment. 
  • Prioritize sustainable practices when possible by minimizing waste, encouraging recycling and sourcing products from sustainable producers.

Through the organization’s many healthy living programs, the American Heart Association offers a variety of recommendations and guidance on food choices and healthy eating. “The goal of each program is to empower individuals to make a heart-healthy eating pattern that works for them,” Kelley says. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and limited sodium and sugar is best for a heart-healthy diet.

The Healthy Food and Beverage Toolkit provides practical action steps and suggestions that are easy for companies to apply, such as:

  • Guidance for healthier meals at meetings and events, workplace snacks and vending; 
  • Adaptation for any size organization; 
  • Nutrition standards for specific food categories; and 
  • Sample menu, tools and additional resources.

Organizations implementing healthier standards are encouraged to:

  • Reduce and ultimately eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages, candy and other less nutritious foods 
  • Reduce sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and trans fat in food and beverages provided 
  • Provide fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains 
  • Provide reasonable portion sizes Identify and use food vendors who offer healthier choices.

“The goal of the program is to meet companies where they are, whether they have a current wellness policy or are just starting out,” says Kelley. “Behavior and policy change takes time, and this toolkit will allow a company to take small steps that can make a large impact on their employees.”

Companies are encouraged to get leadership approval and work with a variety of staff members and external partners, such as food and beverage vendors, dietitians, etc. They should create an action plan to determine how to phase in changes and how to communicate those changes with employees.

The Healthy Food & Beverage Toolkit is free and can be accessed by registering at heart.org/healthyliving. iBi