Healthy Living in the North

Eating well at work: what Northern Health staff have to say

Have you ever tried to make a lifestyle change, say tweaking your eating habits, and it didn’t quite work out? My past efforts have taught me that success is more likely to happen when you consider what is needed to make “the healthy choice the easy choice”. I find that different strategies are needed for home, work, and fun.

In recognition of October’s Healthy Workplace Month, I asked a few work colleagues throughout the region to share with me what makes it possible to eat well at work. Here’s what I learned:

 Planning at home can support easy access to your preferred food

I have a morning routine that includes packing a lunch. I also try eat away from my desk. It’s important for me to take a break.”

“I typically bring a week of snacks with me on Monday to save time and take the guess work out of snack planning. Some of my favourites are whole fruit, cut up veggies, homemade muffins or cookies, oatmeal packs, yogurt, cheese cubes, and boiled eggs.”

Supportive work colleagues and spaces make a difference

We plan potlucks a few times a year, with a focus on balancing out dishes to include all four food groups – and we always leave room for dessert!”

“I appreciate that we have a space at work where we can eat together. I really enjoy spending social time with work colleagues catching up, sharing food and recipes, laughing and relaxing.”

“It’s great that we have access to a kitchen to safely store and prepare lunches. It means I am not stuck eating sandwiches every day!”

“We’ve changed the culture at our worksite so that our staff room isn’t the “dumping ground” for people’s unwanted sweets. Years ago, there would be bags and bags of leftover Halloween candy, boxes of Christmas chocolates, or Valentine and Easter treats on the communal table – it was hard to not eat it when it was sitting there. Some days I’d feel sick from eating so much candy. It’s better now because if I want a seasonal treat, I can bring my own or accept one if it’s offered.”

Tasty, healthy, options that anyone will love!

 Management support, whether through policy, resources, or events, really shows that my workplace values my health

Twice a year, our managers host social events for all staff — one is a bbq and the other is a luncheon. There is always a great variety of food.”

“It’s great that we have approachable dietitians at our workplace. I like that they have a flexible approach to what healthy eating is, and they make me feel good about my food choices.”

“My team lead tries to follow the Eat Smart, Meet Smart guidelines when planning our team meetings. This means we have more healthy options to choose from, and we’re more likely to have a fruit bowl instead of a box of doughnuts at meetings these days!”

As you can see, there is a variety of strategies that people feel make healthy eating easier at work. For some additional thinking, check out Marianne’s blog about Workplace celebrations:  More than just food and Beth’s blog about Eating smart at work.

I’d love to hear how your workplace makes it easier for you to eat well!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.

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Workplace celebrations: More than just food

Tea, mugs, and teapot on a table.

Next time your coworker has a birthday or your team completes a major project, celebrate with a tea party instead of the typical treats! When it comes to workplace celebrations, get healthy by getting creative!

From holidays to birthdays, milestones, and achievements, there are plenty of reasons to get together with your coworkers for celebration. It’s great to take those moments to celebrate together. They often provide an opportunity to become a more closely knit team and forget about the stresses of everyday tasks. Often, workplace celebrations are centred on food: birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and other less nutritious treats. And while occasional treats are definitely a part of healthy eating, when they happen too frequently, they can impact our health and productivity in the workplace.

Many of us spend at least ⅓ of our day at work so having a work environment where making the healthy choice the easy choice is important. Since celebrations are social events and great opportunities for team building, it can be hard to decline when offered a cookie or other treat. Some people may feel pressure to take the item in order not to offend anyone or to fit in with the group. Having alternate ways of celebrating and including everyone takes the stress out of the situation for many.

Next time you and your workmates are planning a celebration, why not consider mixing it up with some fun non-food activities or trying some strategies to encourage healthy food celebrations? Here are 10 creative ideas to get you started:

  1. Keep cake a treat. Instead of celebrating with a cake for everyone’s birthday, why not have monthly or seasonal birthday celebrations?
  2. Consider alternative birthday celebrations. Give cards signed by coworkers or have a fun birthday object that the birthday staff member keeps for the day. It could be a pin, sash, hat, or other unique object!
  3. Have a pumpkin carving contest for Halloween.
  4. Hold a decorating contest. Decorate office doors or windows individually or in teams.
  5. Choose to sponsor a local charity.
  6. Plan a group activity. Rent the ice rink, have a bowling tournament, or try rock climbing.
  7. Choose restaurants that offer healthier menu choices. Check out Informed Dining for locations that provide nutritional information.
  8. Ask your caterer to make 80% of the choices healthier options, with 20% being treat food.
  9. Try a healthy theme for office potlucks. Choose a theme that encourages vegetable, fruit, and whole grain options, such as red and green vegetables for Christmas, or a soup and salad bar. Remember to create a sign-up list to ensure variety. List categories of foods and don’t forget extras like cutlery, napkins, or beverages.
  10. Instead of a meal, host an afternoon tea party. Coworkers can bring in their favourite teas to share. Don’t forget to bring your favourite mug, too!

For more information on creating healthy eating environments in the workplace, check out the Eat Smart Meet Smart guide and the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines policy page.


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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