Another recent study shows the difference of opinion on everyday foods between experts and the public. The study surveyed hundreds of nutritionists from the American Society for Nutrition along with a sample of the general public for comparison. The participants were presented with 52 common foods and asked if they would rate the food as “healthy”. Several common foods differed greatly in opinion. The common food with the biggest gap in opinion was a granola bar, with 71% of the public rating it as healthy and only 28% of nutritionists rating it as healthy. This gap demonstrates how the general public can be deceived on what foods are actually healthy by misleading claims on products. Unhealthy and processed food products, such as certain granola bars, are often labeled and advertised as “healthy” or “natural” – when instead they are actually full of added sugars, high in carbs and low in protein.

Another reason why “healthy” is confusing is because the world of nutrition is constantly evolving. Take the food pyramid, for example. Remember when refined carbs such as bread, pasta and cereals were the recommended “healthy” base of diets? The American government’s Food Guide Pyramid in 1992 recommended to eat six to eleven servings of these carbs each day. After obesity rates continued to soar, more scientific research was conducted throughout the years to shape what is considered a healthy diet today – healthy fats, protein, whole grains, less sugar and, of course, plenty of fruits and vegetables. If employees haven’t been kept up-to-date on modern dietary guidelines, they might think they are eating healthily, but, unfortunately, they could be very wrong.

How A Wellness Program Can Help

Introducing employees to a wellness program that offers a focus on nutrition will help guide employees who are trying to improve their diets and eat more healthily. If your company already has a wellness program in place but doesn’t offer nutrition education, advice or resources, you should strongly consider adding these elements. When employees feel like they don’t have the education or resources they need to make healthy choices, confusion and frustration trump the motivation to eat well.

Here are some examples to help make nutrition simple with a corporate wellness program:

• Educate employees on nutrition by hosting an onsite seminar with a nutritionist or healthcare professional. Offer trustworthy resources to employees about healthy eating habits.

• Encourage employees to focus on eating more fruits and veggies instead of processed food.

• Teach employees the difference between healthy foods and healthier alternatives. For example, frozen yogurt is a healthier alternative to ice cream. However, it is not a healthy food that should regularly be eaten.

• Encourage employees to cook their own meals at home instead of dining out.

• Offer onsite cooking classes or discounts for employees to take a cooking class.

• Offer information on the benefits of meal prepping along with some health meal-prep ideas for work.

• Send out nutritious recipes once a week.

• Host a healthy office potluck once a month.

• Offer employees weight management programs and classes such as Weight Watchers onsite.

• Provide employees with discounted consultations with a nutritionist.

• Encourage employees to talk to their doctor about their diet during their regular checkups.

• Replace processed and sugary snacks in office kitchens and break rooms with healthy snacks (nuts, fresh fruit, veggies, Greek yogurt).

• Start nutrition challenges. Challenge employees to keep a food journal, eat more veggies each day, or cook all meals at home for one full week. Reward employees who participate and complete these nutrition challenges.

• Keep all nutrition information up-to-date. This may require some research on the employers’ part, but making sure nutrition advice is factual and comes from a reliable source will gain employees’ trust.

Helping employees overcome the confusion over healthy foods will benefit both employees and their companies in many ways. Once employees understand what it means to eat healthily and create healthy eating habits, employers can expect a major boost in productivity, general wellness and overall health around the office. Getting smart about eating takes some work, but it all starts with education. Use a wellness program to make “healthy” more achievable and less confusing for your employees.

Alan Kohll is the founder and president of health and wellness service provider, TotalWellness. Follow TotalWellness on LinkedIn and Twitter.