Manaaki at mahi: Healthy kai to enhance wellbeing at work

Rather than having employees and guests nibbling on chippies and chocolate slices at work events, why not try some healthier options?

And we’re not just talking fruit! As well as seasonal fruits, berries and veges, there are heaps of delicious, easy to prepare foods you can offer your staff and guests. 

Providing healthy food and drink options for morning tea or after work functions, helps support the health and wellbeing of employees and visitors.

Eating a range of healthy food helps you to feel fuller for longer, improves your energy levels and mental outlook, and helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

To make this easier to do, the Health Promotion Agency/Te Hiringa Hauora (HPA) has a set of easy-to-follow factsheets and guidelines to help staff order healthy options when buying or preparing food and drink for work events.

Here are some of the tips from HPA’s Manaaki at Mahi resources to help workplaces make sure the kai they offer supports health and wellbeing.

1. Do your homework

Before you get started, do some homework about your workplace. Ask your employees when and how food and drink is provided across the organisation. Who orders the catering? What food preparation facilities are available? How are the dietary and cultural needs of workers being met?

Management may have to get everybody on board first and then start with small manageable steps. Remind people their lunchboxes are not being policed and they can still bring whatever foods they choose to eat at work.

2. Utilise the supermarket 

Buying food and drink from the supermarket for meetings or events can be a quick, economical and healthy solution to catering needs.

Look out for fruit and vegetables that are in season and don’t require much preparation, like berries, grapes and carrots. And they often have healthy salads and deli items that you can buy by the pot.

Check out the bakery for wholegrain bread, rolls or wraps and grab some hummus or other healthy option dips. 

Don’t supply fruit juice or fizzy, they are both very high in sugar; instead offer water, milk, tea and coffee.

If you’re serving alcohol, you must serve food as well and make sure non-alcoholic drinks are available. Having an alcohol policy at work is good practice.

3. Healthy platters

Platters are quick and easy to prepare and a fun way to feed a group of people. Choose a variety of unprocessed (whole) and colourful foods and aim for bite-sized portions that are easy to pick up and eat. Think olives, sundried tomatoes, capsicums, cucumber, fresh lettuce leaves, and pair them with dips or raita and wraps.

Select wholegrain crackers, cooked lean meat or mini sandwiches. A cheese board with slices of fruit is a good choice, too.

For Pasifika, offering hot food is seen as a mark of the regard you hold them, so make sure you offer something hot. Healthier options include mini quiches or grilled chicken wings.

4. Catering for small or large.

For smaller events, keep it simple and healthy and don’t make it too difficult for the organiser.

Think about what best fits within your budget and is most acceptable for the people you’re catering for. You could pre-order a healthy small option, such sandwich platters, before the event to make it easier.

For larger events, the same rules apply but you can just add more items. Try adding quiches or bite-sized vegetable fritters. Make up some fruit kebabs and add in wholegrain crackers, wraps and wholemeal bread/toast options for the dips. The HPA has a lot of food and drink ideas for small and large gatherings.

Learn more 

Healthy kai – FAQs Wellplace NZ
Hosting for hui Wellplace NZ 
Catering for Pasifika communities Wellplace NZ
Procurement guidelines for health kai Wellplace NZ

References

  1. Healthy eating basics Health Navigator NZ 
  2. Catering for Pasifika communities Health Navigator NZ 
  3. Manaaki at Mahi resources Wellplace NZ 
  4. Manaaki at Mahi - the HPA's kai guidelines Wellplace NZ 
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.