Category Archives: Food

Why is Food Safety so Important?

As well as being National Healthy Aging Month, September is also Food Safety Education Month, an educational outreach initiative to raise awareness about the steps we can all take to prevent food poisoning.

Keep Your Food Safe
If you’ve ever eaten potato salad that has sat out a little too long at a summer cookout or have unknowingly been served under-cooked meat at a restaurant, then you know first-hand the distress of food poisoning. Unless you’ve personally experienced a food-borne illness, you may not give too much thought to food safety in your everyday life. Food-borne illnesses are completely preventable, and understanding food safety—the proper handling, preparation, and storage of food—is key to prevention.

Food-borne illness is a public health problem. Every year, an estimated one in six Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food. Anyone can get food poisoning, but some people are at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from food contamination, including young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Keeping your family safe from food-borne illnesses is actually pretty simple. By following four easy steps—clean, separate, cook, and chill—you can help keep your family safe from food poisoning at home. Learn more about all of these steps here.

1. Clean
Germs and bacteria can live in many places around your kitchen including on your hands, in your food, on utensils, and on cutting boards and countertops. That’s why proper cleaning is so important.

  • Wash your hands often and the correct way. It’s best to use plain soap and water: skip the antibacterial soaps, and wash your hands under warm, running water for at least 20 seconds while scrubbing your palms, backs, between the fingers, and under the nails. Rinse your hands well and dry thoroughly with a clean, dry towel.
  • Clean surfaces and utensils after each use. Use hot soapy water to clean all dishes, utensils, and cutting boards, and wipe down countertops especially after cooking or preparing raw meat, seafood, or eggs. Be sure to wash all dish towels in hot water on a regular basis.
  • Wash your fruit and vegetables by rinsing them under plain, warm, running water. Using soap, bleach, or specially made produce washes is not necessary. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Do not wash meat, eggs, or poultry.

2. Separate
Preventing cross-contamination of different foods is the key to preventing food-borne illnesses.

  • Use separate dishes and cutting boards for produce, meat, seafood, and eggs. Use separate utensils for raw or cooked foods.
  • Wash all dishes, utensils, and cutting boards in hot soapy water or run them through the dishwasher.
  • Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in individual, sealed plastic bags, and store them in the refrigerator. If you don’t plan to use them in a few days, place them in the freezer.
  • Store eggs in the carton they came in, and place them on a shelf in the refrigerator and not on the door.

3. Cook
Always cook food to the correct temperature to ensure that you kill any germs that can cause illness.

  • Invest in a good food thermometer, and use it to test the temperature of the cooked food by placing it into the thickest part of the food. Use this chart to determine if your food is cooked to the right temperature.
  • If you’re not serving food right away, keep it hot by storing in a chafing dish, slow cooker, or warming tray.

4. Chill
Refrigerate and freeze food properly to prevent spoilage and food-borne illnesses.

  • Place perishable foods in the refrigerator within two hours of purchasing from the store.
  • Store leftovers in individual containers and refrigerate immediately.
  • Do not thaw or marinate food on the counter, only do so in the refrigerator.
  • Regularly check food in your fridge, freezer, or pantry for expiration dates. Throw out any food that is past its expiration date or otherwise looks or smells spoiled. Use this guide for recommended storage times for different foods.

 

Nutrition Needs As We Age

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the roles nutrition can play in helping us age healthfully.

Changing nutrition needs as we age
You may have been a healthy eater in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, but as you hit middle age, your nutritional needs will change, and you may need to modify your diet to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs.

Aging causes a variety of changes in the body, including muscle loss, thinning skin, digestive changes, and bone mass loss. Some of these changes can lead to nutrient deficiencies or affect your quality of life. One major challenge in meeting your nutritional needs is that as you age, you need fewer calories. This creates a dilemma: you may need just as much, or more, of certain nutrients, but you’ll need to get them eating fewer calories. One way to deal with this dilemma is by eating a diet rich in whole foods and also by taking a nutritional supplement.

Fewer calories, more nutrients
Older adults may need fewer calories to maintain their weight since they tend to exercise and move less and have less muscle tone. One reason older adults tend to gain belly fat is because they continue to eat the same amount of calories as when they were younger, but they are less active. This is especially true for women post-menopause, as a drop in estrogen levels has been directly linked to fat storage in the midsection.

What can be difficult is that as you age, you need higher levels of certain nutrients than you did when you were younger. These nutrients include vitamin D, calcium, protein, and fiber. That is the reason it is important to eat a varied diet that contains lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish.

Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients for bone health. Calcium helps maintain bone health, while vitamin D is essential in helping the body absorb the calcium. Eating enough dairy products and leafy, green vegetables can help you get enough calcium in your diet, but if you are deficient in Vitamin D, your body will not process the calcium correctly and could result in bone loss.

Many older adults are deficient in Vitamin D as skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin from foods and sunlight, so they may need additional Vitamin D supplementation. Talk with your doctor about your specific needs for these two important nutrients.

Protein
Even though you need fewer calories as you age, it’s important to still get enough protein. Protein is vital for tissue growth, repair, and maintenance. Most adults need between 45-60 mg of protein per day. Good choices for protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and legumes.

Fiber
Eating enough fiber is even more important as you age. Not only can it help keep you regular, it can also lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also good for your skin and can aid in weight loss. Women over 50 should get at least 21 grams of fiber each day, while men over 50 should aim for at least 30 grams per day.

Fiber is best when consumed naturally from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It can also be taken as a supplement, which can be helpful if you suffer from constipation, which is common as you age and your digestive system changes. Talk with your doctor about your specific fiber needs.

A word about water
Older adults can become more prone to dehydration because their sense of thirst is not as acute. Drinking enough water every day is also important to reduce your risks of urinary tract infections (which can be more common as you age) as well as reducing risks for constipation and confusion.

To stay hydrated, you don’t have to stick to plain water. Beverages like seltzers, non-caffeinated herbal teas, and juices can count toward your daily water intake; just be careful of extra calories, especially in fruit juices. You can also get water from fruits and vegetables especially watermelon, berries, cucumbers, and lettuce.

Eating a healthy diet that focuses on getting these important nutrients, as well as drinking enough water, can help you stay healthy as you get older.

 

 

Smarter Lunch Choices

Liven Up Your Lunch

Are you stuck in a lunch rut? Do you tend to eat the same lunch day after day or rotate between just a few types of meals? Whether you are currently working in an office and regularly bring your lunch from home or currently working from home, coming up with healthy and easy lunch ideas can sometimes be challenging, especially if you’re pressed for time. Nutritious and delicious lunches that are easy to make are possible. It just takes a little preplanning and creativity.

Sandwiches and soups are go-to lunch choices, especially if you’re taking your lunch from home to the office, and they are quick and easy to make. Liven up your lunch routine with some of these healthy and satisfying recipes.

Sandwiches

Sandwiches are a classic lunchtime staple. They’re easy, quick, and filling. But there are only so many ham and cheese sandwiches that you can eat! Up your sandwich-making game with these nutritious alternatives:

Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad Sandwich
This variation of plain chicken salad uses rotisserie chicken combined with tangy cranberries, walnuts, and celery on pumpernickel bread.

Prosciutto, Arugula, and Tomato Sandwich
An Italian version of the BLT uses prosciutto in place of bacon and vitamin-packed arugula instead of boring iceberg lettuce. Top with a juicy tomato and serve it on ciabatta bread.

Peanut Butter, Strawberry, and Honey Sandwich
A twist on the classic PB&J, this sandwich uses fresh strawberries in place of jelly with a sprinkle of honey and hint of mint. Serve it on 100 percent whole wheat bread for a complete healthy meal.

Roast Beef Sandwich
Make your own version of a deli favorite with roast beef, pickles, cucumbers, and mayo on a Kaiser roll.

Soup

Soup is also an easy lunchtime choice. You can buy premade soups, but there are many healthy soups that can be made at home and taken to work in a plastic container to heat up in your office microwave. As we head into fall and the weather begins to cool,  soups can be appealing as a lunch option. Be prepared by experimenting with some of these nutritious and hearty soup recipes:

Chickpea and Potato Soup
A protein-packed soup with potatoes, spinach, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Pasta Fagioli Soup
A combination of fresh spinach, sausage, beans, and pasta make a filling meal. 

Italian Vegetable Beef Soup
A variation on the classic comfort food, this veggie soup features beef, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. You can add in any vegetables you choose, either fresh or frozen. 

South-of-the-Border Chicken Soup
This thick, hearty chicken soup mixes mashed and diced potatoes, seasoned with fresh lime juice, and topped with avocado.

Broccoli-Chicken Parmesan Soup
This healthy soup can be made with chicken for a protein-rich meal or made vegetarian-friendly by leaving out the chicken, using veggie broth, and adding more spinach.

10 Summer Salads to Keep You Cool and Satisfied

When it’s hot outside, having a heavy, hot meal doesn’t always sound appealing. Salads can be a refreshing, filling, and nutritious choice for lunch or dinner on sweltering summer days. There are so many delicious options for salads that go beyond basic iceberg lettuce!

Below you will find recipes for fresh summer salads that take advantage of seasonal vegetables and fruits and are easy to make. Serve salads as a side to your main dish or add a protein such as grilled chicken, shrimp, tofu, or steak to any salad to make it a main course.

Tomato, Peach, and Basil Salad
Use seasonal peaches and nectarines combined with feta cheese to create a sweet and savory salad.

Charred Shrimp and Avocado Salad
This light salad has a tropical taste with pineapple, shrimp, and avocado mixed with cucumber and watercress.

New Greek Salad
A twist on the traditional summer salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and feta cheese, combined with Kalamata olives and croutons made from olive bread.

Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken
Another summer favorite, this Cobb salad includes avocado, tomatoes, feta cheese, and crumbled bacon. Add grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken for an even quicker meal.

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Steak and Tomatoes
Watermelon is a summer staple that when grilled with steak creates a juicy flavor and satisfying meal.

Arugula, Melon, and Prosciutto Salad
A sweet and salty salad with cantaloupe, arugula, and prosciutto served with a red wine vinaigrette.

Grilled Chicken Mango Salad
Grilled chicken is cooked in mango cilantro dressing and combined with avocado, cucumbers, peppers, and romaine lettuce—finished off by more mango cilantro dressing.

Garbanzo Bean Salad with Dill Dressing
Protein from chickpeas and fiber-rich beans and veggies make this salad a filling meal.

Strawberry Summer Salad
A refreshing blend of spinach, strawberries, sliced red onion, chopped nuts, and feta drizzled with strawberry vinaigrette dressing.

Summer Caprese Salad
This summer classic is made with fresh summer tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil seasoned with olive oil.

Meatless Meat and More!

There’s More than “Meats” the Eye!

Veganism and plant-based diets have become a popular trend in recent years. Whether you are trying to go vegan or vegetarian, or you are just trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, finding alternatives for meat that taste good and provide enough protein and other nutrients can involve a little trial and error.

Meatless options have come a long way from just plain veggie or tofu burgers. There are now many options available that are easy to find—some even mimic the taste of real meat. The two most popular meatless products right now are the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, which both taste the closest to real beef than any of their predecessor veggie burgers. There are differences between these two meat alternatives, as well as other options, so read on to learn more about tasty ways you can go meatless.

Tofu
Tofu has been a staple of vegetarian diets for decades, as well as a foundation of Asian cuisine. Tofu is made from curdled soybeans. On its own, tofu lacks flavor, but when added to other foods, it will take on the flavors of other ingredients in the dish.

Tofu can be grilled, baked, or fried and can be used with various sauces, grains, and vegetables. It is great for stir-fry or as a replacement for eggs or cheese in some recipes.

Tempeh 
Tempeh gets easily confused with tofu, but it is not the same. Tempeh is made of fermented soybeans and is a complete protein and high in calcium. The fermentation process is also beneficial for gut bacteria, and tempeh is high in fiber, which also helps regulate digestion. Tempeh can be used as a meat substitute in sandwiches, salads, or cooked in a pan.

Seitan
Unlike tofu and tempeh, seitan is not soy-based, but rather made from wheat gluten. It is high in protein and is a good alternative for people with soy allergies or those who cannot eat soy-based products for other health reasons. The only downside to seitan is that it is not considered a complete protein, so it needs to be paired with others protein sources like beans or lentils. Seitan is a good choice for sandwiches or as a pizza topping, and it can be found in store-bought products such as meatless sausages or jerky. Just be mindful of reading labels as some seitan products can contain a lot of preservatives and sodium.

Pea Protein
Products made with pea protein are some of the newest foods on the market that you’ve probably been hearing a lot about. Products like Beyond Meat (e.g., Beyond Burgers, Smart Dogs, etc.) are popular products sold in many grocery stores.

These meat alternatives are some of the closest to real meat as far as taste and texture, and many fans claim it tastes just like ground beef. Pea protein products are gluten-free, soy-free, GMO-free, and packed with protein. However, some products are highly processed and contain food coloring and other additives, so it should not be eaten as a daily meat substitute, but indulging in a Beyond Burger once or twice a week is fine.

The Impossible Burger vs. Beyond Burger

Currently, the top meatless products on the market are the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. Both taste almost like a real burger and have become popular due to their similarity in taste and texture to real beef. Both products are completely vegan, containing no animal products or by-products.

However, there are some differences between the two. Impossible Meat is a soy-based product while Beyond Meat is made from pea protein. Other than their main protein base, the two products’ other ingredients are pretty similar. The Beyond Burger does have a red color, similar to real beef, that comes from beet extract, while the Impossible Burger’s red tint gets its color from the heme from the leghemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying hemeprotein, found in root nodules of leguminous plants and which turns the older root nodule a pink or reddish color).

The Impossible Burger is made from mostly organic ingredients while the Beyond Burger is not. Beyond Meat makes more than just burgers, including sausage and meat crumbles. Beyond Meat or Impossible Meat can be substituted for ground beef in most recipes.

Impossible Burgers are now available at many popular restaurant chains including Burger King, Red Robin, Q’doba, and White Castle and can be bought in many grocery stores. Beyond Meat can be found at many national grocery store chains as well as at Carl’s Jr., TGI Friday’s, and Del Taco.

So which is better? The Impossible Burger or Beyond Burger? You may need to try both to see which you prefer. It should be noted that all Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers are not going to be identical, as each restaurant will prepare their meatless burgers differently.

 

 

The Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting

You may have heard about a current diet trend called intermittent fasting. This weight loss approach has been around in different forms for many years but has seen a recent rise in popularity. Intermittent fasting is not necessarily a diet, but more of a pattern of eating that involves cycling between times of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time. Intermittent fasting can offer some weight loss benefits but also has several drawbacks, and it is not safe for everyone.

There are several ways intermittent fasting can be done, but figuring out which way works best will depend on each individual. While one of the main attractions of intermittent fasting is not having to count calories and track foods, weight loss benefits will only occur if  you stick to healthy foods during your eating windows, and do not use it as an excuse to eat high-calorie, junk foods. When fasting, you may still drink water, coffee, and other no-calorie beverages which can help reduce hunger and keep you hydrated.

Four methods of fasting

  • The 16/8 method: This method requires you to fast every day for 14-16 hours while you restrict your daily eating window to between 8-10 hours. This method is simple and can be accomplished by skipping breakfast and not eating after dinner, while you eat two or more meals during the eating window.
  • The 5:2 diet: This method involves eating normally five days a week and then restricting calories to 500-600 for two days of the week. Women should stick to 500 calories on fasting days, while men can consume 600 calories.
  • 24-hour fast: Some people prefer to eat a normal diet most days of the week and then do a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. This method is the most difficult to maintain.
  • Alternate-day fasting: With this method, you fast every other day. Some variations of this method allow you to eat 500 calories on fasting days, while others require one day of eating, followed by one day of fasting, and so on. This method is also very hard to sustain in the long term.

Benefits and drawbacks of fasting
Intermittent fasting can be helpful for weight loss. Studies have shown that when meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period during the day, it does aid in weight loss. However, weight loss results from fasting diets may not last. When you are done fasting and return to a normal diet, you may regain the weight or even more.

Another common pitfall to intermittent fasting is that it is difficult to maintain for the long term. And fasting can lead to deficiencies in important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which can cause fatigue, dizziness, constipation, and other health problems. Fasting can also lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous.

There are certain people who should not try fasting at all, including those with diabetes, pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, elderly people, children, and anyone with a chronic disease. Before trying intermittent fasting, you should consult your doctor to make sure it’s a safe choice for you.

What is essential in learning any new skill or practice is self-discipline, and this applies when adopting the practice of fasting as well as resuming a healthy diet once fasting has ended. Each person needs to find positive ways to motivate himself/herself to maintain the discipline that is required.

 

Start Your Day with a Powerful Breakfast

The importance of Breakfast Nutrition

You’ve probably heard the mantra – breakfast is the most important meal of the day! But what exactly does that mean? What are the healthiest foods to eat for breakfast?

Eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to start your day. A good breakfast will help you think and perform better at your job or at school and can help you maintain a healthy weight and promote heart health.

Don’t Skip!
Many people skip breakfast, either because they aren’t hungry in the morning, feel like they’re too pressed for time, or as a way to lose weight. But studies show that breakfast skippers are not only sabotaging weight loss attempts, but they may also be impacting their body’s ability to control blood sugar as well as affecting their quality of sleep.

What’s for breakfast?
Getting into the habit of eating breakfast is important, but equally important is what you eat for breakfast. Grabbing a protein bar or shake is better than nothing, but highly processed foods like these are not the best choices for your first meal of the day. Eating a balanced breakfast that’s packed full of protein and nutrients will give you the most health benefits.

When planning your meals, focus on pairing carbohydrates with proteins for breakfast. Carbohydrates will fuel your brain and supply your body with the energy it needs to begin the day. Protein will help you feel full and satisfied until lunchtime.

A breakfast that’s high in protein has also been shown to support weight loss by increasing muscle mass, helping regulate blood sugar, helping you feel full longer, and curbing the urge to snack at night. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein at breakfast; this can be accomplished with an 8 oz. cup of Greek yogurt or one egg with a couple of turkey sausage links, for example.

Protein-packed breakfast ideas
Skip the donuts and danishes, and try some of these ideas for a healthier breakfast that pairs the right amount of proteins and carbs.

  • Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
  • Steel-cut oatmeal with berries and 6 oz. Greek yogurt
  • Avocado toast with egg
  • Whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp. of nut butter and sliced banana
  • Berry and yogurt smoothie
  • Peanut butter and banana smoothie
  • Whole wheat English muffin with egg and low-fat cheese
  • Sausage and egg casserole with a side of fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and topped with berries and almonds
  • Egg scramble with turkey sausage, low-fat cheese, and veggies with a side of berries

 

Seven Small Diet Changes that Can Have a Big Impact

When they hear the word “diet,” most people envision a complete overhaul in their way of eating. They usually try restricting all the foods they enjoy and inevitably end up feeling deprived. It’s why most diets fail. Such restrictive eating cannot be sustained for the long term. But in order to lose weight without feeling deprived, and to ensure you are getting the proper nutrition your body needs, making small, consistent changes works better than trying to maintain any sort of restrictive diet plan or trying to make big changes all at once.

Making small changes to your diet that are both realistic and sustainable can have a big impact on your overall health. These minor changes won’t produce immediate results when it comes to weight loss, but if you add them to your daily life and stick to them, you will notice the health benefits, which will encourage you to keep making more small changes that will all add up to big payoffs in the long run.

Here are seven small changes you can make to your daily diet that will be beneficial for your health and help you in your weight-loss journey. Try making one small change at a time. After you have been able to stick with it for a week or two, then try making another change, and so on.

1. Don’t skip breakfast.
Research has shown that people who regularly eat breakfast are more successful in losing weight and keeping it off. If you’re pressed for time, breakfasts such as a whole wheat English muffin topped with peanut butter and banana, or low-fat yogurt with fresh berries and granola, or instant oatmeal, are quick choices that offer lots of protein and fiber to keep you full until lunch.

2. Trade refined grains for whole wheat grains.
An easy switch to make is choosing whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta instead of refined products. Always read labels to make sure breads and other products are made only with whole grains and not a mixture of refined and whole grain—whole wheat flour should be the first ingredient listed.

3. Eat fruit, don’t drink it.
Fruits are full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, but you only get these health benefits when fruits are eaten in their whole form, not in a juice. Plus, fruit juice almost always has added sugar and is often not even made from real fruit.

4. Cut out sugary drinks.
You’ve heard it before, but one of the easiest changes to make that will not only help with weight loss but will also make you feel better is cutting out sugary beverages like soft drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juices. Replace them with plain water, sparkling water, or even sugar-free beverages if you can’t kick the soda habit for good.

5. Skip the Starbucks.
Coffee on its own can be healthy because it contains antioxidants. But most coffee drinks purchased at popular coffee bars and restaurants are essentially desserts. Those fancy coffee drinks may taste delicious, but they’re loaded with sugar, sweeteners, syrup, milk, and/or heavy cream. Try drinking black coffee instead and adding just a small amount of low-fat milk.

6. Increase protein.
Add protein to all of your meals and snacks to help you feel full and to curb cravings. Smart choices include lean meats, eggs, low-fat dairy products, beans, peanut butter, and nuts in small portions.

7. Swap unhealthy oils for healthy oils.
Cooking oils such as vegetable oil, canola oil, and soybean oil are highly processed and high in “bad” fats. Instead, choose extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil that contains  healthy (the “good”) fats—omega-3 fatty acids.

By taking baby steps in revamping your diet, you’ll be more likely to stick to it and be successful.

Refueling Your Body Post-Workout

You’ve been pushing yourself in your weekly workouts, trying to reach your personal goals whether it’s to increase fitness or build muscle. Most likely, you’ve been careful about what you eat before you exercise, but what you eat after a vigorous workout is just as important. The right nutrition can replenish energy stores, build and repair muscle that was broken down during a workout, and help keep your metabolism strong.

When refueling after a workout, the sooner the better. Research shows that if you wait to eat for two hours after your workout, it decreases your body’s ability to refill muscle stores by 50 percent compared to eating right away after exercising. It’s best to eat or drink something that combines protein and carbohydrates 30 minutes to one hour after exercising.

Studies have shown that consuming carbohydrates immediately after exercise is an excellent strategy to maximize rates of muscle glycogen synthesis, which means restoring energy to muscle cells. Similarly, eating additional protein within an hour after a workout is also shown to improve muscle glycogen stores. Drinking plenty of water, or sometimes a sports recovery drink after very strenuous workouts, is also necessary for rehydration.

Post-workout meals don’t have to be complicated nor do they require special supplements or expensive shakes. It just takes a little planning and preparation so you have a meal ready to go after your workout. For example, if you work out at a gym, you may want to pack a pre-made meal to take along with you, such as a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.

These examples of post-workout foods combine the necessary carbohydrates and protein and are quick and easy to make:

  • Grilled chicken (4 oz.) and brown rice (½ cup)
  • Egg scramble made with eggs and vegetables such as sweet potatoes or avocado
  • Peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich made on whole grain bread with all-fruit preserves
  • Whole grain wrap with lean meat, beans, avocado, or cheese
  • Whole wheat toast with 3 oz. of tuna and 2 oz. of hummus and spinach
  • Protein shake made with half a banana, one scoop of protein powder, and almond milk
  • Chocolate milk (1 cup)

 

The Workplace Pantry: Boosting Productivity and Morale

Many offices around the U.S. have created office pantries as a benefit for employees, while others have not yet embraced this new trend. Research has shown that an office pantry offers many advantages in addition to providing snacks and drinks for employees; in fact, several studies have shown that office pantries improve employee productivity, increase employee morale, and foster a feeling of inclusivity.

Office pantries are communal areas where employees can gather to relax and take a break from work. Well-equipped office pantries offer complimentary coffee, drinks, snacks, a microwave, refrigerator, and other items of convenience. They cut down on the need for employees to leave the office to grab a coffee or snack and can offer healthier options than some traditional vending machines.

Fostering Positive Workplace Culture
According to a survey by the Australian Institute of Business, 73 percent of respondents said a full pantry would make them feel happier at work, and 57 percent thought it would boost employee morale. The office pantry serves as the center of the office community and can foster relationship building, bonding, and collaboration. These positive benefits can lead to employees feeling an increased sense of personal belonging to the company.

Additionally, according to Staples Business Advantage, 53 percent of office employees think that a well-stocked pantry contributed to their perception of an inclusive office culture. Employees felt the office pantry demonstrated that the company cared about their welfare and valued their work. According to Inc. Magazine, 60 percent of working professionals mentioned that having free snacks in the office makes them feel “valued and appreciated.”

Increased Employee Productivity
Studies have shown that providing a well-stocked pantry improves employee productivity. It ensures that workers are kept well-fed, refreshed, and satisfied. After all, hungry employees will not perform at their best. In a study, 57 percent of working professionals stated that they buy their own snacks and beverages at work, and one in two employees reported leaving the office to get coffee or a snack at least once per day and sometimes up to five times per day.

When employees had access to nutritious snacks close by in a central office pantry, it helped make them more productive and better focused on work—cutting down on trips to nearby coffee shops or convenience stores to get snacks or coffee. Additionally, by having a convenient place to grab a snack or heat up a lunch brought from home, employees may not need extended lunch breaks, thus allowing for more flexible work schedules.

Stocking An Office Pantry
Setting up an office pantry is fairly simple. Most offices already have some sort of kitchen area that you can add to, or you can designate another area as the office pantry. Offering a couple of small tables and chairs where employees can sit and relax on breaks is also a plus.

There are a few things every office pantry needs:

  • A source of caffeine – Offer a coffee maker and kettle for tea as well as providing complimentary coffee, a selection of teas, milk or creamer, sugar, and packets of artificial sweeteners.
  • Snacks – Offer a variety of non-perishable, healthy snacks such as fruit or dried fruit, packets of nuts, crackers, granola bars, and pretzels. Individually packaged items work best.
  • Drinks – A well-stocked fridge is also a nice addition for employees to have access to soft drinks, juices, bottled water, and energy drinks.
  • Microwave – Providing a microwave is helpful for employees who prefer to bring lunch from home; they can quickly heat it up and eat at their desks.
  • Supplies – Be sure to provide and regularly restock items such as napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, and paper cups.

If you’re interested in adding an office pantry to your business, we have helped many companies do this and would love to help you get started!