How Better Nutrition Habits Can Boost Employee Health And Lower Cost Of Care

May 18,2022

Read Time 4 Minutes

As an employer, you probably consider different avenues to encourage and support employee well-being each year. One that’s often overlooked? Healthy eating habits. By providing the right digital tools and resources, you can help employees make better food choices. This not only benefits their overall health, but may also boost productivity and improve your bottom line.

Poor employee nutrition habits are directly linked to:

  • Chronic disease risk: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists poor nutrition as one of the top four health risk behaviors leading to preventable chronic diseases.
  • Obesity-related health concerns and costs: According to the CDC’s 2021 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps, 19 U.S. states have an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%. Adults with obesity are at a greater risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and premature death. They also have approximately $2,505 higher annual medical costs, compared to people of a healthier weight.
  • Worker productivity: Unhealthy eating habits play a large role in many health conditions and can lead to reduced productivity at work. Employees who are sick tend to miss more workdays and require extra time away from their jobs in order to manage their health.


Food Insecurities And Social Drivers Of Health (SDoH)


Food insecurities exist within every demographic and community in the United States — even yours. You may not realize how food insecurity could impact you or your organization, but illness, childcare, work schedules, or caring for loved ones can all affect the ability to obtain meals and healthy food.


A household is considered to be food-insecure if its residents are unable to acquire enough food due to insufficient resources. Feeding America estimates 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 6 children experienced food insecurity in 2021. Food insecurity increases the risk of adverse health outcomes, complicates condition management, and is linked to higher healthcare costs.


The Impact Of Nutrient Density On Disease Management


Foods are not inherently good or bad; everything has a place within a balanced diet. What matters to a person’s health is nutrient-density, or the amount of disease-preventing nutrients like vitamins and minerals.


For example, an apple and a serving of pretzels have roughly the same number of calories. The pretzels offer very little nutrition aside from carbohydrates, while the apple provides carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.


Nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats can raise “good” cholesterol and offset heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. On the other hand, a low consumption of nutrient-dense foods can increase the risk of disease and certain cancers, accounting for approximately 1.7 million deaths a year.


Helping Employees Implement Better Nutrition Habits


If your employees work from a physical, in-person location, you can help them make better choices at work by adding healthy snacks to your vending machines or break rooms. If they work remotely, virtual nutrition webinars and healthy eating groups can bring people together to learn and share dietary advice.


Personal accountability is also key. Studies show people who monitor their nutrition and hydration habits have a greater understanding of how food impacts their health. This is directly linked to better weight management and in turn, improved overall health.


A daily food log or food diary can:

  • Make employees more aware of what and when they eat.
  • Uncover eating patterns and unhealthy eating triggers, like stress.
  • Reinforce new healthy habits to create long-term changes.
  • Keep them on track with weight-management goals.

Nutrition trackers are also useful tools. They can help employees learn about macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and provide helpful information for doctors and dietitians. According to a recent Anthem study, 95% of healthcare professionals believe access to patient's nutrition information would improve healthcare outcomes, but less than 15% have access to this information.


Apps like SydneySM Health are a good example of the next generation of connected nutrition support. Sydney will soon offer an integrated nutrition tracker alongside health resources, including 24/7 virtual care, interactive chat, fitness tracker syncing, and immediate access to records and ID cards. Sydney’s nutrition tracker can log meals, calculate macronutrients and calories, and save “favorite” foods for future tracking or sharing with a provider. The tracker’s most impressive feature, however, may be its ability to provide faster, more accurate food recognition, offering:

  • > 90% food recognition accuracy.
  • 30,000 food types.
  • 5,000 food categories.

When better nutrition habits are combined with exercise, education, and a supportive workplace culture, employees are empowered to take greater accountability for their own health. These positive behavior changes can not only help reduce risk and lower costs for your business, but also increase workplace productivity and enhance overall well-being for your organization.


Sydney Health is offered through an arrangement with Carelon Digital Platforms, a separate company offering mobile application services on behalf of your health plan ©2020-2022.