Last night for dinner, I ate nearly a dozen meatballs, a pepperoni roll, and a slice of pizza. Surprise! I was hungry. Also, that was the extent of the spread at the party I attended. I normally follow a produce-heavy diet, but greens were nowhere in sight. Alas, I subsisted on a combination of cheese, ground meat, and bread, which, don’t get me wrong, was delicious, but nonetheless unhealthy. In the parallel work universe, a similar scenario plays out all the time: When employees are itching for a snack, and they wander to the nearest vending machine, they’ll likely buy whatever is in there for lack of better options. “Big Texas Cinnamon Roll? Sure, that’ll get me through the afternoon.”
I’ve suggested switching out unhealthy snacks in the office, or providing healthier foods at meetings, and employers often retort, “My employees won’t be happy about it!” But I don’t think that’s true.
Silver Diner, a fast-casual chain in Virginia and Maryland, took fries and sodas off of the kids’ menu in 2012 and started offering items like teriyaki salmon and quinoa pancakes. Despite the substitutions, their revenues consistently rose (Read: People are buying these healthier foods.). Disney Resorts, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s have also made similar swaps with apples and milk for fries and soda. As far as I know, customers aren’t disappointed. Moreover, Chipotle Mexican Grill recently declared that it’s ridden its menu of GMO ingredients, and they’re not alone in making the shift towards foods that are more untampered. Pepsi announced that it’s removing aspartame from its diet beverages. Nestle has purged artificial flavors and colorings from its chocolate candy. Subway plans to phase out a common food additive. Why the sudden impulse to reformulate? Well, customers have become more concerned with what they’re putting into their bodies. And there’s nothing like public opinion to sway corporate decisions.
Families, lawmakers, and, yes, employees are all itching for high quality foods that, frankly, resemble food. My colleague Dana recently wrote that it’s important for employers to remember that employees thrive off of a positive workplace. A healthier workplace is a positive workplace, so let your employees have that. Create an environment where the default option is the healthy choice, and phase in the healthy eats!