Monthly Archives: March 2017

Happy April Fools’ Day from USConnect!

April 1, 2017

USConnect is pleased to announce special nutritional trends and guidelines, especially for April Fools’ Day.

  1. Salt, Fat, and Sugar are the new Quinoa, Kale, and Goji Berries: Toss out those kale salads and make room for the latest health food trend: bacon doughnuts! In a stunning reversal, the people playing nutritionists on infomercials have declared that fatty, salty, and sugary foods are the healthiest foods of all. Super-sized bags of potato chips, multi-pack snack cakes, and deep-fried fast foods are all excellent sources of these three food groups. But for one-stop shopping for fat, salt, and sugar, look no further than the bacon doughnut: three food groups rolled into one!
  1. The More Stress, the Better: Despite years of research citing stress as a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, and obesity, new studies now suggest that stress is actually healthy! People who aren’t stressed enough may risk facial fatigue from too much smiling, or muscle tiredness from too much exercise. Beware, and get more stress today!
  1. Sitting on Couch Now Good for You: According to many experts who spend a lot of time sitting on couches, sitting on couches is now considered to be the healthiest possible behavior. In related studies, playing video games was found to be excellent for brain development, especially for young children. New guidelines recommend spending at least eight hours per day on the couch, preferably watching some sort of screen.
  1. No Nutritional Information is Good Nutritional Information: Bucking widespread cultural trends, one group of nutrition experts is now suggesting that leaving all nutritional information off labels is the best way to go. “Everyone likes getting a surprise now and then,” said a spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We think that when people understand the nutritional components of their food, it takes the fun out of the meal. Where’s the mystery? Let’s remove that nutritional information and bring some pizzazz back to mealtime.”

Happy April Fools’ Day! USConnect’s regular blog, filled with informative stories about nutritional and workplace trends, will be back next week.

March into Good Nutrition for National Nutrition Month®

New Year’s resolutions? That’s so old hat. March is National Nutrition Month®, and it’s a great time to recommit to a healthier lifestyle.

Use National Nutrition Month to commit to a healthier lifestyle!

National Nutrition Month®, which started in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, is a nutrition education and information campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians. This year, the theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” and it encourages everyone to make healthier food choices. Even small changes, made consistently, can have a big effect.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians provides a robust toolkit on how to celebrate and promote National Nutrition Month®; it includes ways to get people involved with special events, banners, and educational materials. It even includes games like this timeline of fad diets. Along with such gems as the Baby Food Diet (14 jars a day), the Banana Diet (self-explanatory), and the Cabbage Soup Diet (the main side effect was flatulence), you’ll notice that similar fads tend to reappear again and again. For instance, 1985 saw the Caveman Diet which bears a striking resemblance to the Paleolithic Diet that is so popular today.

Most of all, National Nutrition Month® is about making healthy choices. It aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Not sure where to start? Check out which offers tracking tools, tip sheets, and even customized healthy eating checklists.

National Nutrition Month® is a perfect fit with USConnect’s program: The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™. The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ is managed by USConnect’s staff dietician and offers nutritional guidelines for fresh food products on each vending machine′s touch screen. Benefits managers and others can use National Nutrition Month® to promote workplace health by making sure employees are aware of these healthy guidelines.






Update: Millennials’ Meals

“The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!”

What are millennials eating in the office

This is the cry that has been reverberating around human resources departments for the past decade. Currently, the workforce is predominantly composed of three groups:

  • The Baby Boom Generation (born between 1946 and 1964)
  • Generation X (born between 1966 and 1980)
  • The Millennial Generation (born after 1980)

For the past several decades, Baby Boomers and Generation-Xers have dominated the workforce. But in 2015, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, Millennials surpassed both Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers in the workforce for the first time. This is a trend that will only increase as more Millennials enter the workforce and more Gen-Xers and Boomers leave it.

The implications of Millennials’ rise are significant and widespread, from healthcare to management to foodservice choices. This blog has already discussed Millennials’ preference for fresh foods, as well as some more general HR trends for Millennials. As USConnect keeps tabs on the most up-to-date trends among Millennials and other workers, we share them here. Some current trends include these:

  • Office and workplace design that allows for flexibility encourages collaboration. Break rooms, in particular, should reflect the fact that work is rarely a 9-to-5 endeavor and that employees may use these spaces for important “water-cooler” discussion that improves productivity.
  • Food perks. Some think that free food is less important than a collaborative environment or opportunity for improvement. Others, however, point to a study that found that 67 percent of Millennials would feel more valued at work if food perks were increased.
  • Social responsibility. Millennials value working at an organization that makes a positive difference in the world, and that value extends to the food brands they buy. A study by the National Marketing Institute found that Millennials are more likely to buy brands that are transparent about their sustainability and charitable giving, with 65 percent recognizing the Fair Trade Certified label.



Small Effort, Big Benefit

How many hours per day do you spend sitting at your desk? As previously discussed in our post about standing desks, working Americans spend an average of six to 10 hours a day in a seated position, usually in front of a computer. In fact, whether they work or not, most Americans are quite sedentary; they spend most of their time sitting, and they walk fewer than 5,000 steps per day.


The sitting aspect seems to be particularly troublesome for people’s health. Research has shown that long periods of sitting, even for those who also exercise frequently, can have serious negative health impacts, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, heart disease, and a higher risk of dying.

Given the conflicting priorities of work, family, and other commitments, most Americans (80 percent) have trouble meeting the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendations for exercise and activity: at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week for a total of 150 minutes per week. As the AHA notes; however, something is always better than nothing. If you can’t do a full 30 minutes, make it 15. If you can’t do it five days a week, do it three.

A recent study even suggests small intervals—two minutes per hour—of light activity can improve overall health. The study followed 3,243 participants for three years and found that just two minutes per hour of light-intensity activity, like walking, made a significant difference in the participants’ long-term health, including a 33% lower risk of death.

Reducing sitting time can also have some immediate positive effects, like shaking off lethargy and avoiding back pain. When a person sits for an extended time, most of his/her weight rests on his/her sacrum. Over time, this compresses the vertebrae and leads to pain and discomfort. Similarly, most desk chairs keep users’ hips flexed at an angle of 90 degrees or less. After hours of sitting like this, the hip flexors can shorten temporarily; this can lead to low back pain. Getting up for a two-minute walk can let those bones and muscles relax and recuperate, and the increased blood flow can improve mood and alertness. It’s a win-win!



How to Encourage Better Recycling in Your Company

Sustainability Focus: Recycling

Modern materials recycling—converting paper, metal, and plastics into reusable materials—got its start in the 1970s, along with the rise of modern environmentalism. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and in 1976, Massachusetts received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pilot a curbside collection program for mixed materials collection. By 1992, there were 5,404 curbside recycling programs, and by 2017, these programs—most of which offer single-stream recycling—are nearly ubiquitous in municipal areas.

How to Encourage Better Recycling in Your Company

The aim of recycling programs has always been to recycle more: to divert more waste from landfills. To that end, recycling companies have focused on making it easier to recycle common materials. The accessibility of recycling receptacles makes it just as easy to recycle materials as it is to throw them in a regular trash can (one that sends waste to a landfill rather than a recycling center). Now, the act of recycling paper, metal, and plastic has become a habit for many people.

The EPA recommends that everyone “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” These three commandments are ordered hierarchically; you should first reduce the amount of resources you use—then reuse whatever you can. When all else fails, recycle what you can. Recycling is certainly an important component of being environmentally responsible. However, recycling should not be an end in itself; it should be seen as a means to the end of reusing materials. Running recycling programs is expensive; for-profit materials management companies make their profit by selling the feedstocks—recycled materials—that result from the recycling process.

But the economics of recycling are changing dramatically, especially in the area of plastics. Plastics make up a larger percentage of the waste stream than ever, due to technological advances in the manufacturing process. However, many of these new plastics, especially flexible plastic films and pouches, are not recyclable. They contaminate the waste stream and make it more expensive for materials processors to create high-quality feedstocks. At the same time, global financial trends, like lower oil prices and a slower Chinese economy, are reducing demand for plastic feedstocks. This is creating an economic “perfect storm,” in which recycling companies are having trouble staying in the black.

How can your office recycling program help? Make sure employees understand what is recyclable and what isn’t, especially when it comes to lightweight plastics and films. Provide recycling receptacles with signs showing best practices. Consider adding a composting program if possible. And remember, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!