Nutrition interventions in the workplace: Evidence of best practice

  • Nelia Steyn Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit - MRC Tygerberg
  • W Parker
  • EV Lambert
  • Z Mchiza
Keywords: Workplace intervention, nutrition, physical activity, health promotion


Abstract Aim: The aim of this desktop study was to review all workplace interventions having a nutrition component, published in peer-reviewed literature between 1995 and 2006, and to document activities that were successful, as well as possible barriers to their success. Methodology: A systematic review of workplace studies revealed 41 interventions, of which 30 complied with the predetermined search criteria. The following outcome measures were considered in the evaluation of the interventions: (i) changes in nutritional knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy, intentions and stage of change; (ii) changes in dietary behaviours; (iii) changes in clinical/physical markers, such as: body weight or body-mass index (BMI), blood pressure (BP) or serum cholesterol concentrations; and (iv) process and/or policy outcomes. Results: A large number of diverse workplace interventions were successful in changing outcomes positively in the interventions evaluated. The following were key success factors: i) there was a nutrition and physical activity component; ii) dieticians were involved in nutrition education; iii) changes occurred in the cafeteria/canteen, which increased the availability of healthy food options and advertised them accordingly; iv) tailored feedback on diet (and clinical values) was given to subjects; v) employees were involved in planning and managing programmes; vi) the reduced prices (of healthy food items) in vending machines encouraged employees to buy healthier options; and vii) the stages of change theory was most commonly associated with best practice outcomes. Conclusions: Numerous workplace interventions have shown significant improvements in employees’ health and behaviours. However, it is necessary to plan intervention programmes based on the existing evidence of best practice.

Author Biographies

Nelia Steyn, Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit - MRC Tygerberg
Chief Speciast Scientist (MPH, PHD) and Interim director of CDL Unit at MRC
W Parker
EV Lambert
PhD Sports Science Institute, Dept of Human Biology, UCT
Z Mchiza
How to Cite
Steyn, N., Parker, W., Lambert, E., & Mchiza, Z. (2009). Nutrition interventions in the workplace: Evidence of best practice. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 22(3), 111. Retrieved from
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