Creating a Healthy Worksite Food Environment

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Offering better-for-you options in the cafeteria, limiting access to sugary beverages, and establishing healthy food policies are some of the ways that worksites can make it easier for employees to eat well during the work day.

Here is a summary of worksite food environment recommendations for obesity prevention, based on a review of expert guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, and others. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list and the links to other resources.

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Read and print the complete list of worksite obesity prevention recommendations.

Create a worksite environment that promotes healthy eating (1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

  • Provide healthy food and beverages in cafeterias, vending machines, and elsewhere in the worksite (1,2,4,8,9,10,11)
  • Ensure access to clean drinking water (3,12)
  • Limit access to sugar–sweetened beverages (12)
Implement formal worksite policies to promote healthy food and beverages or reduce less–healthy foods and beverages, such as (2,3,7,12)

  • Healthy cafeteria policies (2,3)
  • Healthy vending machine policies (2,3)
  • Healthy food policies for meetings (2,4)
  • Healthy beverage policies (12)
Use marketing strategies to encourage healthier food and beverage choices or discourage unhealthy choices at the workplace

  • Reduce the price of healthy foods and beverages (3,7,12)
  • Replace unhealthy items with healthy items in high traffic areas, such as cafeteria checkout lanes, and at eye–level in vending machines (2)
  • Promote healthier food and beverage choices, such as by using point–of–purchase icons or signage in cafeterias or vending machines (2,10)
Promote breastfeeding or pumping, such as by setting up lactation rooms and giving female employees time to breastfeed or pump (3,4,5,13,14)

Worksite Food Environment—Source List

1. Carnethon M, Whitsel LP, Franklin BA, et al. Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. CirculationOpens in New Window. 2009;120:1725–41.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Guide to Strategies for Reducing the Consumption of Energy Dense FoodsOpens in New Window. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010. Accessed February 2, 2012.

3. Institute of Medicine. Local government actions to prevent childhood obesityOpens in New Window. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences Press; 2009.

4. Lee V, Mikkelsen, L, Srikantharajah, J, Cohen, L. Promising Strategies for Creating Healthy Eating and Active Living EnvironmentsOpens in New Window. Oakland: Prevention Institute; 2008.

5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit NationOpens in New Window. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2010.

6. Wellness Council of America. WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks of Success: Developing Results–Oriented Wellness Programs One Company At a Time. Absolute Advantage: The Workplace Wellness MagazineOpens in New Window. 2006.

7. World Health Organization. The Challenge of Obesity in the WHO European Region and the Strategies for ResponseOpens in New Window: World Health Organization; 2007.

8. National Governors Association. Creating Healthy States: Actions for GovernorsOpens in New Window. 2005. Accessed February 2, 2012.

9. The Obesity Society. The Obesity Society Position on Employer Incentive and Penalties Related to BMI and Weight Loss 2011Opens in New Window. Accessed February 2, 2012.

10. World Health Organization WEF. Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases in the Workplace through Diet and Physical ActivityOpens in New Window: WHO/World Economic Forum Report of a Joint Event; 2008.

11. American Medical Association. National Summit on Obesity: Building a Plan to Reduce Obesity in AmericaOpens in New Window. Executive Summary and Key Recommendations.; 2004.

12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Guide to Strategies for Reducing the Consumption of Sugar–Sweetened BeveragesOpens in New Window. 2010. Accessed February 2, 2012.

13. Khan LK, Sobush K, Keener D, et al. Recommended community strategies and measurements to prevent obesity in the United States. MMWR Recomm RepOpens in New Window. 2009;58:1–26.

14. Levi J, Vinter S, St. Laurent R, Segal LM. F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in AmericaOpens in New Window2008: Trust for America’s Health; 2008.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.