June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month. What better time to taste a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables?
June marks the start of the height of fresh produce season in the United States, so it’s no wonder that June is when we celebrate Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month. For human resource professionals, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal, state, and local organizations provide a bounty of materials to promote healthy produce in the workplace. These include the following:
- Printable poster and information sheets
- Healthy recipes featuring fruit and vegetables
- Web resources
With all the fresh choices available at USConnect’s Bistro to Go!™ micro markets, and with the nutritional recommendations from The Right Choice for a Healthier You™, HR professionals can build company-wide celebrations of National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month. For instance, employees could participate in a recipe contest, with a potluck lunch where everyone gets to try each other’s recipes. Or, employees can use the USDA’s SuperTracker to keep track of how many fruit and vegetables they eat, and self-report to see who can reach their nutrition goal first.
To really celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, lead a group in creating a rainbow of produce:
- Red: Apples, strawberries, raspberries, red peppers, tomatoes
- Orange: Carrots, orange peppers, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes
- Yellow: Pineapple, papaya, yellow pepper, squash
- Green: Spinach, green beans, peas, broccoli
- Blue: Blueberries
- Purple: Beets, plums, purple sweet potatoes, eggplant
Easter has come and gone, but many of us are still finishing up the hard-boiled eggs that the Easter Bunny left. Given this season of rebirth and renewal, it’s a great time to check in on the incredible, edible egg.
Eggs have been called “the perfect protein.” Going back to prehistoric times, most animal protein required finding, killing, and preparing meat, but gathering eggs just required foraging from inattentive fowl.
Today, a large chicken egg contains six grams of high-quality protein and high levels of iron, lutein, and choline. Eggs contain zero grams of carbohydrates and sugars, and although they do contain five grams of fat and 187 milligrams of cholesterol, multiple studies have found that there is no link between eating an egg a day and the risk of heart disease or stroke.
Types of Eggs
From a nutritional perspective, there is no difference between brown eggs, white eggs, free-range eggs, cage-free eggs, cruelty-free eggs, or any other kinds of hen eggs. The color of the egg depends on the breed of the hen, and while the size of the egg will have an impact on the nutrition content (e.g., a tiny quail’s egg will have less of everything than a giant duck’s egg), there is effectively no nutritional difference among different types of eggs.
- Hard-boiled eggs are an easy, portable, protein-rich snack. Place eggs in a pot of cold water, and bring water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, remove pot from heat and let stand for 9-15 minutes, depending on the size of the egg and how “hard” you like it. Cooking eggs for less time results in slightly soft, bright orange yolks that can be spread on a cracker or bread. Cooking eggs longer will result in a paler yellow, almost greenish yolk with a crumbly texture. For best results, put eggs in cold water (to keep them from continuing to cook) and peel immediately. Fun fact: older eggs are easier to peel than fresher ones.
- Soft-boiled eggs take much less time to prepare than hard-boiled eggs, but they’re not nearly as portable. For runny, soft-boiled eggs, cook as above, but remove eggs from water after 4-6 minutes. Soft-boiled eggs don’t need to be peeled; you can eat them right out of the shell with a spoon, or lop off the top of the egg and pour it over a salad of brightly colored vegetables. As discussed in our post on food pairings, the fat from the egg helps your body absorb the healthy carotenoids from the vegetables.
- Scrambled eggs are not particularly interesting by themselves, but they lend themselves to countless variations and additions (to be explored in a future post). For basic scrambled eggs, crack eggs into a bowl and mix well with a whisk or fork until the white and yolk are well combined. Whisk in two tablespoons of milk per two eggs. Pour mixture into a hot nonstick pan (optional: heat butter or oil in the pan first), and using a rubber spatula, lift and fold the eggs until they form a pebbly consistency. Remove from heat immediately when they are cooked to your desired dryness, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Fried eggs are your better basic diner order. Put a teaspoon of oil or butter in the bottom of a hot, non-stick pan and break eggs carefully into the pan. With the heat on low, watch the yolk carefully as it changes from a dark, translucent orange to a light, opaque yellow. For sunny-side-up eggs, take eggs out of pan immediately. For over-easy, flip the eggs and cook for another 60 to 90 seconds. As fried eggs require butter or oil, they are a less healthy choice. However, try throwing a fried egg onto a bed of dark leafy greens—like spinach.
Healthy Food, Healthy Workforce
Want a healthier workforce? Let health and wellness take the front seat by offering employees easy choices for a better lifestyle!
The need for employee wellness programs is well documented, especially in the area of health and fitness. The sedentary nature of office work lends itself to job-related obesity, which can raise healthcare costs and reduce productivity. In addition, a 2015 CareerBuilder survey shows that work-related stress significantly raises employees’ tendency toward obesity. However, nutrition also plays a major role; many respondents reported eating at their desks, snacking, or eating out/takeout as contributors to weight gain.
These benefits of employee wellness programs are also well documented:
- Decreased healthcare costs
- Reduced absenteeism
- Improved productivity
- Reduced worker’s comp claims
- Improved employee morale
- Reduced turnover
The Right Choice… for a Healthier You
USConnect’s The Right Choice… for a Healthier You® program helps employees make better choices at mealtimes and for snacks, with per-serving nutritional guidelines for fresh food products that meet our healthy standards. Managed by USConnect’s staff nutritionist, these guidelines follow the recommendations of a number of leading medical health agencies for the prevention of chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® Kiosks make fresh, healthy options available every day to help combat the poor nutrition that often accompanies office work.
In early 2016, USConnect introduced its USConnectMe app, which puts healthy eating right at the tip of employees’ fingertips. The app, which incorporates the USConnectMe loyalty program, gives users not only the chance to review The Right Choice for a Healthier You® options, but also access The Right Choice for a Healthier You® videos. These videos feature tips and recipes from our registered dietician and are only available to employees at businesses that partner with USConnect.
One of the most frequent reasons that employees don’t take advantage of their companies’ health and wellness programs is that it’s too much work. USConnect’s The Right Choice for a Healthier You® program makes it easier for employees to make better choices, and helps your health and wellness programs to be a success.
Healthy Food Options Are Crucial to ROI on Wellness Programs.
Workplace wellness programs have come a long way since their post-WWII introduction. Initially offered only to the executive suite, wellness programs expanded exponentially after Johnson & Johnson showed how their wellness program improved their company’s bottom line in the early 1980s. In the past several decades, more and more companies have implemented wellness programs to reap the benefits that Johnson & Johnson first saw: reduced healthcare costs, increased productivity, better retention, and higher employee satisfaction.
Implemented properly, a corporate wellness program can indeed have positive results. Quantifying those results, however, can be difficult. In fact, proof of return on investment (ROI) has become something of a holy grail for many HR professionals: elusive and possibly mythical evidence that may or may not exist. That’s why many organizations now try to go beyond simple ROI to a more holistic understanding of the full value of their wellness programs.
In most cases, wellness programs bring a host benefits that are less tangible than just reduced healthcare costs. Successful companies cite “a culture of health” or “the employee positivity factor” to identify the way broad-based wellness programs improve their organizations. The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) released a report in 2015 that showed that business leaders saw the following priorities as influenced by health:
- Employee engagement or morale
- Benefits cost reduction
Most successful wellness programs include a nutrition component. For the best results, the programs need to inform employees to help them make healthier eating choices and also make those healthier eating choices available. USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® kiosks keep fresh foods in stock at all times, prepared with the freshest ingredients at one of our regional culinary centers. Employees are encouraged to make healthier food selections by choosing The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™selections, which have been designated by USConnect’s in-house nutritionist.