Ever hear of the science teacher that lost weight by only eating McDonalds for six months straight? Although many would not recommend a diet like this, the story demonstrates a very strong point. When people think of “healthy” food, they tend to think of low-calorie, low-fat foods that can promote weight loss. The reality is that, for the most part, there is no such thing as “unhealthy” foods.“But wait, aren’t unsaturated fats good and everything else is bad?” Misconceptions like these have spread like wildfire throughout the general population, mainly because of articles on mainstream websites that paint basic nutritional components like saturated fats in an evil light. However, research can tell a different story. This meta-analysis covers the various ways in which saturated fats have been demonized, such as promoting negative heart health effects, but quickly debunks them.
Studies that label foods like red meat as “unhealthy” are often given fearmongering headlines like “Ham, Sausages Cause Cancer.” Attention-grabbing headlines lead to more clicks and therefore more revenue. However, when analyzed by nutrition and healthcare professionals such as Registered Dietitians, studies that classify foods like red meat as “unhealthy” might apply if the rest of your diet is of poor quality as well. It makes sense, people who tend to eat diets high in salt, saturated fat, sugar, and [insert stereotypical bad food here] tend to also lead unhealthy lifestyles and lack nutritional balance. Remember, correlation does not equal causation. The ultimate goal should be a truly balanced diet.
Whether a food is considered “healthy” or not is also relative to many diet and lifestyle factors. Hereditary influences such as a family history of cholesterol issues, food allergies, what foods are consumed throughout the day and week, the climate you live in, how much and what type of exercise you engage in, and many more factors all contribute to whether or not a particular food is considered “healthy” for you at any given period of time.
Bottom line? As a human, stop thinking of foods in black and white as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Just like employee wellness, food should be viewed holistically.
As an employer or wellness professional, this revelation should help you strategize your wellness programs, kitchen supplies, and office parties on the nutrition front. By stocking work kitchens with foods like Greek yogurt, nuts, and fruits, employers ensure that when the pizza parties and ice cream socials do come around, foods like these can be enjoyed as a part of a well-balanced diet. If you’re thinking that you need to remove that candy bowl from the front desk, don’t. Instead, supplement it with a fruit bowl next to the water cooler. Remember, balance is key - if you work hard to make smart, conscious decisions about the foods you eat, just about everything under the sun can be enjoyed as a part of a “healthy” diet.
Tips For Busy Coordinators
- Ask your employees: Instead of wasting your time guessing, give your office a quick poll to determine what they like the most. Don't know where to start? Check out this comprehensive and interactive guide that might help you narrow down to some options.
- Buy in bulk: It might sound like common sense, but a lot of companies don't plan ahead of time and end up buying food in smal quantities at high costs. Buying snacks in bulk from wholesalers (like Costco or BJs) can save your wellness budget some serious bucks.
- Alternatively, rely on the pros: Stocking can become a real hassle if you are in a small team and/or acting as a wellness committee of one. Luckily, there are companies out there that can handle snack delivery efficiently and conveniently, without you having to tally every single bag of nuts. For example, SnackNation specializes in "deliver[ing] a constantly-evolving, curated mix of the tastiest, healthiest, and most innovative natural snacks", while Graze focuses on sharing snacks from "small suppliers [with] big passion." Each company has a slightly different business model and pricing structure, so test out your options to see which one best fits your office and budget!