Q&A with our Head of Wellness & Nutrition - Luxey Dayanandan

This year highlights the critical need for employers to take a holistic approach to Health and Well-being that places personalised nutrition, gut health, and wellness behaviours at the centre of any organisation’s culture. We spoke with Luxey for a quick-fire Q&A session about Nutrition, Health, and Wellness. Luxey knows what she's talking about with more than 10 years’ of experience in a variety of food industry positions and a genuine passion for assisting people in making lasting changes to their diet and lifestyle. So, let's get started…

What does your agenda look like for this year? what initiatives are planned for the year ahead?

The emphasis right now is on gut health and the strong links between the food and mood connection. Particularly for employees in the workplace, it's important to consider gastrointestinal health and the connections between it and the health of the brain, concentration, memory, and focus, all of which, I suppose, have a direct bearing on job performance.

We’re also seeing a huge trend around personalised nutrition and there are a lot of businesses, which is something we are beginning to explore.

You mention personalised nutrition, what does that mean in your world?

Personalised nutrition is rooted in the concept that one size doesn’t fit all. It is an approach that uses information on individual characteristics to develop targeted nutritional advice, products, or services. If you think about it, your colleagues could eat or perhaps follow the same diet as you, but the difference in which your body responds to these foods through your digestion, and your metabolism would be so different.

For example, if X individual has a sensitivity to glucose, their diet should emphasise low GI foods to assist with energy levels. So having a food supplier who pays attention to the specifics of vitamins, supplements, minerals, fortification, and all other kinds of various variables is crucial for your teams’ energy levels and performance.

How do you think this specifically impacts the sector you work in?

At Restaurant Associates, we speak with a lot of employees who battle with having few breaks and little downtime while working in high-powered, high-intensity workplace environments. As a result, the opportunity to settle down and share a meal with their colleagues is extremely important to them, and something they don’t take for granted when given the chance.

Employees are most likely thinking to themselves, “what can I be consuming to sustain my body that actually gives me energy, but isn't insane in calories, and leads me to be exhausted in my afternoon meeting?”

Often eating healthier foods is the costlier option.  We live in a climate where a portion of chips is £1.59 and a salad is £2.00, and every penny counts. This new generation of foodies is showing much more concern for what they put in their bodies, feeding the brain, body, and soul. I know as a team; we're looking to promote healthy lunches and drive that uptake. In the same breath, we are discussing how the food is displayed on the counter, promos, and, of course, the data that goes into monitoring sales. We want to make sure we're serving food that our clients will enjoy.

You have discussed the personalisation of diet and digestive health, two important topics. but what specifically are you planning to do in the coming year to address gastrointestinal health?

Excitingly, we teamed up with Dr. Megan Rossi, a specialist in gut health, last year to enable our people to take charge of their health. Megan has co-founded her own brand of products based on increasing the number of plants in people’s diet through a small range of grab and go porridges and granolas that we have looked to incorporate into our recipe portfolio. She is therefore the ideal partner for us.

We began our relationship with her last year, on the back of some of the successful work and dishes we produced around our very own concept of good-for-your-gut. Which we are massively proud of.

How do you see good-for-your-gut evolving?

Our good-for-your-gut initiative is so popular with our clients. With the feedback, we want to take that even further and have our entire menu matrix centred around customisable, healthy, gut nutrition.

This initiative will evolve and put employees’ wellbeing at the forefront, more than we already do now. I believe that if we incorporate good-for-your-gut programmes into everyday menus, people will continue to follow those habits because they start to notice improvements in their productivity levels at work.

What plan of action do you implement when nutrition is discussed?

I need to understand their requirements in terms of their employee wellbeing plan and whether they have one in place, what is working for them and vice versa. Once we have this information, we can collaborate to build a personalised health and wellness schedule.

If our client believes there is a gap in their employees’ knowledge regarding keeping a healthy lifestyle outside of the workplace, we will bring our best culinary leaders on-site to give a bespoke lesson on what a healthy diet should looks like. The teams will then learn how to immediately apply this information in practice to their own cookery. All with the main objective of enriching the minds of our people.

How else do you believe you assist our partners in keeping their health and wellness plans on track for success?

Nutrition forms a key strand of employee physical and mental health, which is why I support each of our clients to build a healthy and resilient workforce that are engaged and productive, particularly with new work arrangements. I pride myself in taking it beyond simply ‘healthy eating in the workplace’.

We also provide access to our nutritionally analysed menus, talks and pop-up tastings with our yoga partner Felicity Wood, allowing our clients’ teams to benefit from a truly holistic approach to thinking about their own health.

For me, it is about changing people's lives and empowering them to make better decisions, not just getting someone to speak to your teams for 60+ minutes about vegetables on a platter. It is about creating food for thought.

What are some of the obstacles that workplace nutrition will face?

The way we communicate with and connect with teams presents a significant challenge in the workplace. The realm of hybrid working has its own difficulties and connecting with employees through food is one of them, as we discovered in COVID.

Healthy eating is going to drop lower down on the workplace’s priority list, which if I am honest, scares me. We need to make sure employees are receiving the same quality of service whether they are in the office or not.

Some workers work one, two, or three days a week and we need to ensure we offer a comprehensive 360-degree service that guarantees everyone gets the same level of engagement, education, and advice from a qualified expert.

The future of wellness

With the support from government the future of health and wellness offers huge opportunity.  Charities and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have already started to demand better quality food and as the largest provider in outsourcing we are instrumental in delivering this. Offering personalised solutions and nudging consumer behaviours to understanding and making healthier choices is just the start. It is an exciting future and one I am pleased to be involved in.

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