Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Least Unhealthy Halloween Candy

Making Healthy Choices the Week After Halloween

What's the least unhealthy Halloween Candy?

Right after Halloween is the time of year when people are likely to have lots of candy hanging around both the office and the home. We wish we could write a story on the healthiest Halloween candy, but unfortunately, candy is never a healthy thing to eat. It is, however, something that most of us do eat, and in fairly high quantities in early November. So, if you’re going to indulge, which candy does the least damage? Follow these guidelines:

Embrace the Dark, and Stay Away from the Light. As we’ve discussed, dark chocolate has significant health benefits, especially when compared to milk and white chocolate. Although most mass-market chocolate does not contain as much of the good stuff of dark chocolate (phenylethylamine, flavonoids, antioxidants, and theobromine), it does contain some of these nutrients. Milk chocolate has less, and white chocolate has almost none.

Go Nuts. Many people embrace nuts for their health benefits, including high protein and fiber levels, LDL-lowering fats, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant sterols. Halloween candy with nuts can fill you up and make you feel satisfied, so you are less likely to want to binge on your kids’ whole trick-or-treating bag.

Be a Sucker. Lollipops and sucking candies, like Jolly Rancher and Werther’s Hard Candy, keep your mouth occupied for a longer time than something that you can quickly chew and swallow. This can slow the constant hand-to-mouth feeding of Halloween candy.

Read Before You Eat. Even if you don’t have the original back for checking nutrition data, this information is easily available online. Three Musketeers bars, for instance, have lower fat and sugar counts than Milky Way bars. If it’s otherwise a toss-up for you, go for the healthier choice! Check out as a nifty tool for comparing your Halloween candy.

A further note of good news, as this blog has already discussed, portion control is a big part of making healthy choices. Most Halloween candy comes in “fun size” packages, designed for distributing to trick-or-treaters. Let this packaging work for you—helping you keep your indulgence to a minimum.

Why Break Rooms are Important for Your Employees

The Importance of Break Rooms for Employee Satisfaction, Productivity, and Wellness

How important are break rooms to your employees?

Since the rise of the modern office building, the water cooler has been the place where colleagues congregate to discuss the topics of the day: the big game, the latest television twist, or weekend plans. Over time, the simple water cooler has evolved, and most workplaces contain some sort of break room/kitchen area where employees can refresh themselves, at least with food and drink.

Employers may have once decried the time that employees spent away from their desks or workspaces, chatting with co-workers instead of “working.” However, several studies have shown that water cooler chats actually improve productivity—by as much as 15 percent! Rather than discouraging water cooler chat, employers should encourage it with break rooms that attract employees. To maximize the benefits from your break room, consider these tips:

  • Make it pleasant. In the past, break rooms were created from leftover space with leftover furniture and appliances. However, it pays to invest a little to make your break room more attractive:  paint the walls with cheery colors, provide artwork, and encourage employee participation by making it a place they will enjoy.
  • Make it collaborative. Some of the most important skills in today’s world are communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Design your break room to encourage these skills by providing tables and groupings of comfortable chairs and couches.
  • Make it healthy. Provide a range of food options (without excessive sugar or fat) to help satisfy employees’ hunger. USConnect’s The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ program helps workers stay healthy by providing accessible nutritional information and an easy-to-find logo.
  • Make it sustainable. If feasible, provide non-disposable dishes and cutlery and a sink for washing-up. At a minimum, provide recycling options. Sustainability is increasing important, especially among millennial workers.

Job stress is a drain on worker productivity, not to mention happiness. Lessen the load with a break room, and reap the rewards!



Financial Incentives for Physical Activity: What Works?

Increasing the Physical Activity of Your Employees

How can organizations help keep their employees healthy? This is a question that has dogged company executives for decades, particularly since the 1980s when researchers first started tying workplace wellness programs to lower healthcare costs and higher employee productivity.

Do financial incentives for employee wellness programs work?

Most wellness programs consist of some or all of the following:

  • Biometric screening
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Weight management assistance
  • Stress reduction programs
  • Step challenges, either self-reported or using a pedometer
  • Awareness-raising campaigns, including posters, newsletters, and wellness events

That wellness programs have the potential to make employees healthier is undeniable. However, just having the program is not enough; employees need to participate, and they need to change their behaviors in order for the program to work. This is where the rubber meets the road, and it’s where many wellness programs fail to provide the hoped-for outcomes.

A recent Rand Health and Gallup study found that in companies that provide wellness programs, only 24 percent of employees choose to participate. This can severely reduce the ROI of the program, no matter how well-designed it is! And a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (ERBI) found that late adopters of wellness programs were likely to be less healthy than their early-adoption counterparts, with more people at risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, as well as worse biometric readings and more expensive medical insurance usage.

So, with a wellness program in place, how do human resources departments encourage participation, especially from those who need it most? Several recent studies indicate that financial incentives might hold the key: but with a caveat. A 2016 study from the University of Pennsylvania called “Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults” found that offering a positive financial incentive—i.e., giving additional money for participation—did not increase activity. However, offering a negative financial incentive—taking away money for lack of participation—resulted in a 50 percent increase in participation.

The ERBI study cited above offers hope as well; although unhealthy and overweight people were less likely to join wellness programs without incentives, financial incentives did increase participation and encourage a favorable response. It’s important to note that wellness programs cannot be mandatory, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) forbids discriminating against employees based on their health or genetic makeup.


Are Standing Desks Healthier for Your Body?

Stand and Deliver

If you follow workplace wellness trends, you’ve probably noticed that standing desks are getting a lot of attention these days. There is ample reason for the hype surrounding an alternative to traditional sitting desks; as several studies have shown, sitting is very bad for your health. Sitting puts an extra 40 percent of pressure on your spine, and a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, and even increased risk of dementia and cancer! The health risks prompted some to claim that “sitting is the new smoking.”

Are Standing Desks Healthier for Your Body?

Working Americans spend an average of six to 10 hours a day sitting, usually in front of a computer. But how to work without sitting? Enter the standing desk, touted by many as a cure-all for the problems that prolonged sitting brings. Custom standing desks are available for thousands of dollars, or homemade ones can be fashioned from planks, books, and other household items.

Research shows that spending at least part of your day at a standing desk has some considerable benefits, including:

  • Reduced risk of obesity
  • Reduced risk of cancer, especially breast and colon cancer
  • Improved posture
  • Less pressure on spine, so reduction of some back pain
  • Longer life

That being said, research shows that replacing sitting all day with standing all day is not ideal either. Standing for long periods can increase lower back pain, decrease concentration on certain tasks, and result in enlarged veins. The key, it seems, is movement and moderation. Going back and forth between sitting and standing during the course of the day is much more beneficial than choosing one position and staying in it for eight hours. Many people are now choosing convertible sit/stand desks that allow for that flexibility, and adding accessories like anti-fatigue mats to reduce pressure on legs.