Hunger isn't something that most employers think about when improving health in the workplace, but research reveals that it shouldn't be ignored. The most forward-thinking corporations are embracing the opportunity to provide complimentary snacks at work with positive results. Before you consider how food can be part of employee perk plans, consider these facts about food science and employee wellness.
The Science Behind Snacks
Snacks certainly have an important role as part of a holistic and comprehensive corporate wellness program. While vending machines and coffee machines have been a staple of the break room for decades, complimentary snacks with a focus on health in the workplace have recently gained wider acceptance. UT Southwestern Medical Center credits snacks with controlling hunger and regulating blood glucose while reducing the need to overeat later in the day. Carefully spaced out snacks can provide up to 25 percent of daily calories in categories that are essential for meeting nutrient requirements, such as fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin C.
While the nutritional benefits speak for themselves, smart employers will also recognize the power of happiness in a productivity workforce. A recent study concluded that workers given approximately $2 free snacks and drinks were reportedly happier and responded with a productivity "boost" of almost 20 percent during the period following the 10-minute snack time.
These Snacks Are Best
Smart snacking is one of the easiest ways to satisfy employees at work, but it does have its pitfalls. If not done mindfully, there is the potential for weight gain or dietary dangers. Snacks aren't "free" calories and need to be part of a daily eating plan. If workers are already getting a full day's fuel from meals, snacks will pile on additional calories that need to be burned.
Here is what nutrition experts recommend in their health and wellness tips for employees:
- Consume no more than two to three snacks per day.
- Snacks should be planned to make up a total caloric goal. Have employees journal them in a food diary if needed.
- 100 calories per snack are best if trying to lose weight. 200 calories are suitable for those maintaining weight.
- Avoid supplying your employees with processed snacks, such as chips, candy, soda or mixes. Energy or nutrition bars can be tricky, as they can be loaded with sugar and additives.
- Look for foods with 3 grams of protein or fiber at a minimum.
Power Foods for Office Break Rooms
Finally, providing workers with the healthiest options is desirable, but sometimes snacks are all about gratification. Healthy snack maker KIND provides good food to their workers — and their families — by sending home monthly boxes of product to employee households. Even if you don't own a snack factory, the following food options are popular choices for satisfying a sweet tooth or craving for salt, crunch or texture, and still fit the bill for a common-sense snack:
- Naturally-seasoned nuts (with care given to those workers with nut allergies).
- Shelf-stable "hard" fruits, such as apples, pears, oranges and bananas.
- Dark chocolate, with or without dried fruits, sea salt or other healthy ingredients.
- Healthier convenience foods, such as bars, granola or pita chips.
Whether you are looking to implement proven health and wellness tips for employees, or simply recognize that food can create positive feelings for your teams, there is an increase in support for the "snacks at work" movement by companies. Lucid Software, for example, provides a fully-stocked kitchen with healthy staples such as bananas, avocados, hummus and over 90 other options. The future of snacks in the workplace is here. How will you contribute?