Guidance on nutrition and physical activity for workplaces

Healthy eating and being physically active are essential for good health and wellbeing, and support a healthy, productive workforce.

With increasing rates of obesity and the subsequent rise of associated poor health outcomes, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, it is important that organisations support their staff by providing environments that support and promote good health.

The Healthy Food and Drink Policy for Organisations

Workplaces and organisations are encouraged to adopt and implement the Healthy Food and Drink Policy for Organisations. This policy will help organisations to provide an environment that consistently offers and promotes healthy food and drink options. The policy includes the following principles and is consistent with the Ministry’s Eating and Activity Guidelines.

Healthy Food and Drink Policy principles

Icon representing the food groups. Offer a variety of healthy foods from the 4 food groups.

This means:

  • plenty of vegetables and fruit
  • grain foods, mostly wholegrain and those naturally high in fibre
  • some milk and milk products, mostly low and reduced fat
  • some legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and other seafood, eggs, poultry (eg, chicken) and/or red meat with the fat removed.

Icon representing food preparation. Food should be mostly prepared with or contain minimal saturated fat, salt (sodium) and added sugar, and should be mostly whole or less processed.

This means:

  • some foods containing moderate amounts of saturated fat, salt and/or added sugar may be available in small portions (eg, some baked or frozen goods)
  • no deep-fried foods
  • no or limited confectionery (eg, sweets and chocolate).

Icon representing drink options. Water and unflavoured milk are the predominant cold drink options.

This means:

  • the availability and portion sizes of drinks containing ‘intense’ sweeteners and no-added-sugar juices are limited
  • no sugar-sweetened drinks.

Make sure that the healthy food and drink choices (including vegetarian and some vegan items) available are appropriate. Consider cultural preferences, religious beliefs and special dietary requirements, such as gluten free food. 

More advice on healthy food and drink options

As part of the Childhood obesity plan, a network of nutrition, dietetic, food service and public health representatives from all DHBs, along with the Ministry of Health, have developed the National Healthy Food and Drink Policy.

This policy has been adopted by the Ministry of Health and is available for individual DHBs to consider adopting. The policy is based on the same principles as the Healthy Food and Drink Policy for Organisations, but also provides more specific advice as an example of how to translate the principles into action.

Physical activity

Workplace staff, contractors, and visitors who are able, are encouraged to be active in as many ways as possible while getting to and from work, and while at work.

Active transport to and from work

Staff who use active transport (ie, cycle or walk) in full or in part to get to and from work:

  • take fewer sick days and have better health
  • are more likely to arrive on time as they avoid traffic congestion and delayed buses/trains
  • are more likely to be alert when they get to work
  • are more likely to have increased job satisfaction
  • are more cost effective for the workplace.

Where possible, workplaces should:

  • promote and encourage the use of active transport to get to and from work
  • provide adequate changing and showering facilities at all work premises
  • provide adequate storage, lockers and drying facilities for sport and wet weather clothing
  • provide sufficient secure bike parking at each work site.

Physical activity at work

There are numerous reasons for being active at work including better overall health, better self-esteem, more energy and productivity, and better weight management.

Research highlights a link between an active workforce and cost saving outcomes, such as reduced absenteeism, reduced staff turnover, and improved productivity.

During their working day, staff should be encouraged to be as active as possible, and reduce their time being sedentary. Sedentary behaviour, such as sitting at the computer for long periods of time without a break, is associated with many long term conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, regardless of whether an individual is physically active or not.

Workplaces can encourage staff to:

  1. use stairs rather than lifts
    • signs such as ‘there are health benefits from taking the stairs’ should be put up
    • the signs should clearly indicate where the stairwells are and what floor reception is on
    • stairwells should be accessible, well lit and clean
  2. stand up to stretch regularly and when taking phone calls
  3. stand during meetings and use standing tables where available
  4. walk to meetings in nearby buildings rather than taking a taxi where possible
  5. walk to colleagues instead of calling or emailing them where possible
  6. have five minute activity breaks every hour during meetings
  7. avoid scheduling meetings over the lunch period (12–2pm) to enable staff to be active
  8. participate in sports teams, lunchtime walking and jogging groups, and events such as Walk 2 Work day and Bike to Work day.

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