Using catering to improve mental wellbeing

Mental and physical wellbeing is a topic which seems to be dominating headlines as organisations all around the UK implement plans aimed at reducing the causes of mental health problems.

With stress now the number one cause of long-term absenteeism, this is as much a financial issue as it is a moral one and businesses are finally waking up to the importance of a healthy workforce.

All photography by Daniel Lewis

Wellness encompasses a whole range of things, but when it comes to implementation, one of the best places to start is diet. A healthy mind requires a healthy body and that begins with nutritional food and drink.

This doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out anything with even the slightest bit of fat or sugar, but rather providing options and information so that employees and guests can make informed choices that work for them. It’s also beneficial to tailor the eating format to match the style of working that is preferred. Whether it’s street food pop-ups or more traditional café style dining, it’s all about creating an offering which works for the end user.

Our bespoke food programme RESTORE for example, focuses on four key nutritional areas; Fuel, Heart, Core and Mood. With menus designed to aid each of these areas, employees are able to tailor a diet to their liking, while also learning about the importance of healthy eating. Having nutritional and dietary input is key for service providers to ensure that they offer food information that guests can trust in relation to wellbeing.

All photography by Daniel Lewis

Another way to encourage a positive mental environment through food which may not be so obvious, is communal dining. We understand that due to workloads, many employees have lunch at their desks, but whenever possible we encourage them to join their colleagues for a communal meal where they can switch off and socialise. Taking a minute to clear your mind and focus on something other than work can make the world of difference when it comes to mental health and building resilience.

It may seem simplistic, but breaking bread with a fellow staff member can do wonders for team cohesion and solidarity. You can make this more effective by employing specific initiatives such as a weekly meat-free day, a world food week or even just a quarterly team lunch.

Remember, developing strong wellbeing practices through food isn’t just a case of planning the odd day dedicated to eating healthily, it’s a prolonged approach which needs to be built into the fabric of the business. It’s the job of catering, hospitality and business service professionals to not only implement these practices, but also to ensure that they are maintained until they become the norm; after all, a healthy office is a happy one!

By Alistair Day, executive chef at catering company Bennett Hay

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