State Bureau for Public Health requires healthy menus for meetings
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State Bureau for Public Health employees will be eating a lot less sugar and a lot more salads following new healthy food requirements released last week.
The guidelines require 50 percent of menus to be "healthy food," that food should be baked, not fried, and include increased fruit and vegetable choices. Any condiments served should include reduced-fat mayonnaise and salad dressings instead of the 100-proof varieties.
The memo said no soft drinks containing sugar should be served at Bureau meetings and events, and "water should always be made available." Diet soda is acceptable, however.
The requirements only affect food at meetings and other Bureau-sponsored events where food is purchased using state money.
"To lead by example, a Bureau's goal is to offer healthy food choices during work-related events," the memo said. "The following information is meant to assist individuals planning food options served at Bureau meetings."
Dr. Teresa Frazer, deputy state health officer, said the bureau has been working on the new guidelines for about two months as part of a larger DHHR project meant to create healthier workplaces.
Frazer said the new guidelines are not meant to eliminate unhealthy foods from meetings and office parties, but to offer healthier choices to employees who might be trying to watch their diets.
"It's fine if you have fried chicken, but make sure you also have broiled chicken," she said.
Frazer said no one is going to police employees' lunches.
"If somebody comes to one of these events and stops by the break room and buys his own soda, nobody has any objections to that," she said.
But Frazer said most people cannot eat high-calorie, high-carbohydrate meals and stay healthy.
"The workplace 100 years ago was a farm, and you probably did not need any healthier lifestyle changes. Today it's a desk and a computer," she said.
She said human bodies are hardwired to enjoy fatty, sugary foods but, at the same time, people typically do not miss those foods if only healthy options are presented.
"We're hardwired in many people to like fried chicken better than baked chicken. But we also know, when you're hungry, you will eat and it will taste good."
The guidelines memo also included sample menus, suggesting turkey chili with crackers and fresh fruit for lunch, or a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with low-fat cheese, lettuce and tomato with a side of potato or pasta salad made in a light dressing.
A sample dinner menu could include spaghetti and meatballs, but with whole grain or low-carbohydrate pasta, tomato sauce and whole grain rolls.
Although the switch from sugary soda was not a hard sell, Frazer said there has been some pushback from employees over the healthy food requirements.
"There was the thought that everything had to be baked rather than fried. I think there was a momentary questioning of, does this mean we have to give up fried chicken?" she said.
No, Frazer said, it does not mean anyone has to give up fried chicken. It just means that grilled chicken, salmon or a healthy sandwich also will be available.