Objective: Owing to modern lifestyles, individuals are dependent on out-of-home eating. The catering sector can have a pivotal role in influencing our food choices. The objective of the present study was to examine the impact of a structured catering initiative on food choices in a public sector workplace setting.
Design: A cross-sectional comparison study in two hospitals, one of which had implemented a catering initiative designed to provide nutritious food while reducing sugar, fat and salt intakes.
Setting: Two public sector hospitals in Cork, Ireland.
Subjects: A total of 100 random participants aged 18-64 years (fifty intervention, fifty non-intervention) who consumed at least one main meal in the hospital staff canteen daily. Each respondent was asked to complete one anonymous 24 h dietary recall and questionnaire. Food and nutrient analysis was conducted using WISP (Weighed Intake Software Program).
Results: Reported mean intakes of total sugars (P < 0·001), total fat (P < 0·000), saturated fat (P < 0·000) and salt (P < 0·046) were significantly lower in the intervention hospital when adjusted for age and gender. In the intervention hospital, 72 % of respondents, compared with 42 % in the non-intervention hospital, complied with the recommended under-3 daily servings of food high in fat and sugar (P < 0·005). In the intervention hospital, 43 % of respondents exceeded the recommended salt intake of 4-6 g/d, compared with 57 % in the non-intervention hospital.
Conclusions: Structured catering initiatives in the workplace are a potentially important option in the promotion of healthy food choices. Targeted public health programmes and health policy changes are needed to motivate caterers in the public sector and other industries to develop interventions that promote a healthy diet.