Gail Trautman has worked for Prudential Financial, Inc. for 14 years, which means she's logged a lot of meals in the company's on-site dining center at the Newark, New Jersey, headquarters (one of 11 Prudential workplace cafeterias available to nearly 15,000 employees across the country).
During that time, says Trautman, a Mutual Funds Senior Associate of Administration, she has seen "a lot of things come and go in the cafeterias." But it's Prudential's new dining options and discounted prices that have really caught her attention, and reinforced her efforts to eat more healthfully.
"Prudential is doing a great job making employees more aware of healthy eating choices and making it easy for us to choose them," says Trautman. "We are responsible for our own well-being, but the company is supporting our efforts with this program…and it really makes a difference."
"I've always tried to eat healthy in the cafeteria and usually got a salad each day even before the new choices and pricing," says Trautman. "But now I take advantage of the discount five days a week and I've noticed a difference in my wallet. I'm also choosing more of a variety of nutritious things from the salad bar such as grilled vegetables which weren't always available before."
That's just what Prudential had in mind when it instituted its Better for You dining options in 2011. Along with more healthy meal choices, employees receive a 20 percent discount when they make those choices.
And it seems to be working.
According to Debra Murphy, Manager of Food Services, register receipts have shown that 15 percent of customers who weren't making healthy menu choices before the program began are doing so now, with more salads, fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean meats turning up on cafeteria trays. Among the more popular selections, reports Murphy, are the wild green salads, poppy-seed chicken breast sandwich, tri-color melon salad, Greek omelet, and grilled pineapple with honey-lime glaze. (Since healthy eating can sometimes come at a higher price, Murphy tries to stick with in-season fruits and vegetables to keep prices down, both for the company itself and the employees. The company works closely with its food vendor, Eurest Dining Services, in both menu selection and cost-containment.)
K. Andrew Crighton, M.D.
The Better for You program is just one element in Prudential's overall support of employee health, from fitness centers to on-site clinics to wellness coaching, according to Chief Medical Officer K. Andrew Crighton, M.D. For that reason, there was no hesitation from senior administration when it came to revamping the menus and offering the dining discount. "It's all connected to our mission of supporting the health of our employees," says Dr. Crighton.
Offering healthier menu selections is all well and good, say Crighton and Murphy, but making sure the employees know about them is just as important as offering them in the first place. To that end, Food Services works closely with Prudential Health and Wellness, posting monthly menus on the website, with a green apple icon identifying the healthiest options; providing both on-line and printed nutritional information and recipes; offering tours of the dining center by Prudential's nutritionist to help employees make better choices; and "shaking up" the visual display in the cafeterias, including not only the green apple icon, but also grouping healthier items together and making them more visible as soon as employees come into the room.
Prudential's commitment to employee health is paying off. Though there are no measures specifically tied to the Better for You menus, the percentage of Prudential employees considered low-risk for serious illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes has jumped from 57 percent to 79.1 percent, according to Dr. Crighton.
"We can't say just one thing did it," he says, "but when the company supports a culture of health and wellness, it's harder for the employees to say no." (That doesn't mean you won't find doughnuts or pizza in the dining center, or candy and chips in the vending machines – it just means there's more opportunity to relegate those to the "now and then" category.)
For its efforts, last year The National Business Group on Health named Prudential a Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles for promoting a healthy workplace and encouraging its employees and families to support and maintain healthy lifestyles.
"We see Prudential's health programming as an investment both in the well-being of our associates and the success of the company," says Dr. Crighton. "We provide employees and their families with tools to identify health risks and resources to address them. When our employees are at their best, we all benefit."