Think about the last time your company had a happy hour. Did you have to incentivize people to come?
Why? Happy hours are their own incentive – an opportunity to socialize in a relaxed setting and access to free food and alcohol. Oh, and they tend to be FUN.
Now think about the last time you wanted to host a “healthy” food event at work. How many people came? Did you have to offer them an incentive? Were they excited? Did they hang around after it ended?
I spend the better part of each week teaching companies and their employees how to eat in a way that is energizing, immune-boosting, money-saving, and delicious.
With so many temptations and social pressure to eat overly processed convenience food, making nourishing and energizing choices isn’t easy, especially when we’re at work. Vending machines, pizza parties, happy hours, cakes and cookies, and holiday gift tins seem to be everywhere we turn and access to nourishing options tends to be limited.
Because of the feedback I’ve heard from thousands of employees, I know most people want to eat better because they want to feel better. We’ve stopped marketing our “healthy” food events as such and have used language that is more inviting to them – mood, brain, and immune-boosting foods; eat for energy; eat well without going broke; fuel up on the road; etc.
We don’t fuss over telling everyone how “healthy” it is and encourage you to consider the same. Research tells us that when people hear that something is “healthy,” they have certain expectations about how it will taste (which, for most people, often means bland or boring).
Over the past ten years, as our wellness program has evolved and become an integral part of our culture, we’ve found a variety of ways to make eating well enjoyable and communal. Employees don’t have to decide between being social and eating well, as we’ve created community around doing that simultaneously.
Here are some FUN and delicious ways we’ve brought more nourishment to the workplace.
- Plan a “Lettuce Do Lunch” potluck. Each employee who wants to take part signs up to bring in an ingredient for a salad bar. Then, everyone comes together, assembles their own custom salad and eats lunch together! Sometimes we have a few people bring soups or stews and have a Soup & Salad potluck.
- Kick off opening day for your favorite sports team with an array of fresh food in your team colors. The Orioles are local to us, so we had purple grapes and orange slices, red pepper hummus with blue corn tortilla chips, black bean hummus with carrots, and a cantaloupe and blackberry fruit salad. It was a fun way to kick off the season and provide some nourishment. These foods are also great for Halloween!
- Set up a trail mix bar. Employees love creating their own customized trail mix combinations, and you can create your own custom blend. Companies like www.nuts.com sell just about every ingredient you could possibly want for a trail mix and other office snacks as well as the dispensers to store them.
- Consider switching your coffee and tea service to one that is fair trade and promotes ethical business practices and fair wages. We encourage employers to connect with food, to raise awareness about where it comes from and the impact it has on our larger society. More companies are getting on board with this and realizing the value of the triple bottom line (people-profits-planet). We switched our coffee and tea to a brand that is fairly traded. To learn more about this, check out www.EqualExchange.coop.
- Let your employees know about LocalHarvest.org. This is a resource for them to find local farms, farmer’s markets and crop shares (CSAs). Depending on the level of interest at your company, you may be able to have produce delivered to your office or to employees’ homes, sometimes at a preferred rate. For more information, check out, www.LocalHarvest.org
- Host a Taste the Rainbow potluck. Here’s how it works. Create a sign-up sheet listing all of the colors of the rainbow and several name slots for each one. Employees sign up to bring in a dish featuring that color and also wear a shirt in that color as well. You are likely to end up with lots of whole, fresh food options because they tend to be the most colorful!
- Invest in a high quality blender to promote smoothie-making. A few years ago, our employees started making smoothies as part of a nutrition challenge we set up at work. Our CEO lent us his wife’s Vitamix blender to use during the challenge, and our employees found themselves using it so much, that we decided to purchase one for company use. Employees now make smoothies on a daily basis, and the blender has an 8-year warranty, so even heavy use won’t be a concern.
- Surprise employees with a Make Your Own FroYo Day. We started doing this a few years ago and our employees LOVE it. We purchased a Yonanas machine on Amazoon and use it to make frozen yogurt our of frozen fruit. We purchase organic frozen fruit from BJs Wholesale Club and peel and freeze a bunch of bananas to make the “ice cream”. We also put out a bunch of toppings, including fresh berries, nuts and seeds, shredded coconut, dark chocolate chips, and even peanut butter as a yummy protein-packed mix-in.
- Bring a cooking demonstration onsite. Most employees want to eat well but lack confidence in their ability to make nourishing food that also tastes good. If you are in the Baltimore/DC/VA/PA area and would like to learn more about bringing our Certified Culinary Nutrition Expert and Director or Wellbeing to your company to deliver cooking demonstrations or nutrition workshops, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are outside of that area, search “healthy cooking classes” and your city name in Google.
- Host a book club or movie night. Most of us are unaware of the potential impact of what we eat on how we feel and function. Inviting employees to come together to watch a documentary like Food Inc., Food Matters, Fed Up, or the Netflix series Cooked, is a great way to start raising awareness about our food and how it affects us. You could also organize a book club around books like Michael Polla’s Food Rules, Marc David’s The Slow Down Diet, or Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating.
To learn more about our wellness services, contact our Wellness Director today.