More than half of Americans report that they don’t eat breakfast every day. Add to that the fact that many people use their lunch break to run errands or hit the gym and don’t sit down to eat a real meal for lunch and you can see how office food culture and not making smart food choices can have a big impact on an employee’s daily performance and mental clarity.
In addition to poor food habits, food quality is a major concern. Sixty-one percent of a typical American’s grocery purchases are processed foods. Since people are more likely to cook in the evenings after they get home from work, a lot of the daily snacking that keeps people fueled throughout the workday consists of these highly processed, low-quality foods that are not smart food choices. Many people rely on quick packaged foods like those found in vending machines to get through their workday, and this poor diet can lead to mental fuzziness and sluggish response times.
Many might say that what employees put into their body shouldn’t concern business owners. After all, employees are free to make their own choices. However, employees represent a business’ most valuable asset, and their performance has a direct impact on the team camaraderie, productivity, and the bottom line.
Think about it through an analogy. If your business were a pro sports team, those employees would be your athletes. What they eat is of the utmost importance. There’s a reason athletes like Tom Brady pay careful attention to what they put in their bodies and make smart food choices. Many avoid carbohydrates and sugar and make a conscious effort to pack in protein and nutrient-rich foods throughout the day to keep their performance optimum.
While employees in a business may be looking at spreadsheets or answering phone calls rather than catching footballs and running drills, the importance of connecting nourishment to performance is the same. What we eat matters, and if a business wants their employees functioning at their best, it would serve them well to make sure that they promote an office food culture that is going to improve the quality of their employees’ health and wellness. Doing so can decrease sick days, avoid mood swings and performance lulls tied to spikes and dips in blood sugar levels, and overall increase the productivity of the workplace.
While employers shouldn’t be policing people’s lunchboxes, there are plenty of ways that businesses can promote a better food culture. By looking carefully at the food options made available (in the break room, in the vending machine, at the front desk, during a working lunch), businesses can make a few important choices to ensure that their team is fueled well.
Snacks: Quality and Longevity
Make sure the snacks provided in the office are high-quality and smart food choices. The best snacks will contain protein and nutrients so that they are doing more than providing a momentary satisfaction through sugar. Here are some excellent ideas for snacks that will leave the team motivated and nourished.
- Fresh fruit– Some great options are apples, oranges, and bananas. All of which can be set out in a fruit bowl for easy access with little work to maintain.
- Fresh vegetables– Vegetable platters are an excellent way to get nutritious options into your team’s hands. Celery, carrots, sliced bell peppers, and tomatoes all make excellent grab-and-go snacks. You can add hummus or a yogurt-based dip for even more protein-rich snacking options.
- Nuts– Nuts are one of the most nutrient-rich foods and even just a handful can provide an excellent mid-day boost. Look for nuts that are low in carbohydrates like macadamia nuts, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. Avoid peanuts (which are actually legumes rather than true nuts) because they are common allergens. If you do provide bowls of nuts for employees, be sure to keep them away from other foods to not cause allergen contamination.
- Coffee and Add-Ins- If you provide coffee, it will make it less likely that your employees will turn to sugar-packed sodas to get their caffeine fix. Make sure to provide some healthier options for coffee add-ins. Stevia packets are a great alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Vending Machine Improvements
When employees are hungry and desperate for something quick, they’re going to turn to whatever is on hand. Make the options to choose something healthy easy by stocking the vending machines with choices that are going to make a difference.
- No Candy or Soda– The easiest thing to do is to get rid of the culprits that are causing the afternoon slumps to hit hard. Sugar-packed candy and soda are the primary targets. Even diet soda can cause blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes. Opt for water, flavored sparkling water, and juices to drink.
- Pack More Protein– Just like the communal office snacks, the vending machines should be packed with protein-rich options. Jerky (beef or turkey) that’s low in sugar can be an excellent option. Packs of nuts, beef sticks, dark chocolate, and pork rinds are also great choices.
If you are providing lunch to the team, then chances are you have a day packed with work to do and need them to be at their sharpest. To make sure that happens, you need to make food choices that give them the tools to keep their minds and performance at peak levels.
- Avoid Heavy, Bready Items– Don’t pick pizza, pasta, or sandwiches on dense bread. These carbohydrate-heavy favorites will leave your team more likely to snooze than hit the ground running with new ideas.
- Pick Nutrients and Quality- Whenever possible, choose organic, high-quality items over processed, pre-packaged options. Some great choices include veggie-filled soup, lettuce wraps (where lettuce replaces bread for a sandwich), and large salads.
Smart food choices are a place where a business can subtly direct the team to make better choices that will improve performance for everyone. People who are well-fed and nourished are easier to get along with, better thinkers, and more alert. On top of that, most people are looking for ways to make their day go smoother and to fill their bodies with nutritious food. In our fast-paced modern work environment, those choices can be hard to make, especially in an office filled with free doughnuts and vending machines of sugar. Help your employees make the choices that will nourish their minds and bodies and watch the improvements ripple through the entire team.