Boosting Workplace Productivity: The Power of Mindful Snacks
In a competitive business landscape, enhancing productivity is top-of-mind for almost any company. But one important component that is often overlooked is the impact of nutrition on human performance. While it is true that many factors affect productivity, the fundamental link between nutrition and performance still applies in the workplace. That’s why employees may take it upon themselves to pack healthy snacks, and employers can also help by providing mindful snacking options at work.
Nutrition and Productivity in the Workplace
What we eat inevitably affects how we work, but the equation involves more than just calories and energy levels. Food intake actually influences brain power, too. Scientific studies have found that proper nutrition can boost cognitive ability and even reverse some effects of aging on the brain.
Besides the cognitive benefits, a well-nourished workforce is an all-around healthier one. Adequate nutrition can bolster the immune system, and studies have shown reduced absenteeism due to sick days when employers implement nutrition and wellness programs. In a fast-paced business environment where every hour counts, the implications are clear: nutrition affects more than just personal performance, but business performance as well.
Choosing the Right Snacks for Productivity
Nutrition for productivity closely resembles the recommendations for a generally healthy diet, but not every type of food is simple or convenient to have at work. The best food choices are those that can be stored in snackable portions, are easy to eat without mess, and can accommodate a range of tastes while optimizing nutritional value for physical and mental performance.
Neuroscientists have identified certain nutrients that improve cognition and positively influence emotions through their effects on brain functions. These include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B, D, and E, and various antioxidants. Thus, munching on snacks that are high in these nutrients may help with productivity at work. Here are some suggestions:
- Walnuts: Walnuts are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids and healthy saturated fats that can reduce inflammation.
- Berries: Any kind of dark-colored berries, but especially blueberries, blackberries, and acai berries, are loaded with antioxidant vitamins and other micronutrients.
- Avocado: Avocados are high in Vitamin E along with beneficial saturated fats.
- Citrus fruits: Famously high in vitamin C, fruits like oranges and tangerines are always a good choice for brain health.
- Whole grains: Healthier than refined or highly processed grains, whole grains contain a complete package of nutrients including complex carbohydrates and fiber that are good for digestive health as well as for the brain.
- Green tea: Tea is high in flavonoids, which enhance cognition and reduce inflammation. The moderate amount of caffeine in green tea may also help with energy levels at work.
- Dark chocolate: Another good source of flavonoids and a bit of caffeine, chocolate makes the perfect occasional self-reward at work.
All of these snacks, which are easy to keep stocked at one’s desk or in the break room, can provide a bit of a cognitive edge with their abundance of brain-healthy nutrients.
Protein is imperative for repairing body tissues and maintaining muscle health, but studies show that adequate protein intake supports cognitive health as well. This means that high-protein snacks help sustain physical energy throughout the workday and benefit employees’ overall performance and lifelong well-being.
- Legumes: Beans are a vital source of plant-based protein. Peas, lentils, and lima beans in particular are reported to support long-term cognitive health.
- Edamame: These young soybeans pack a punch of protein along with dietary fiber.
- Hard-boiled eggs: Packable and versatile, eggs in a salad or on their own provide a complete source of protein and other vital nutrients.
- Almonds: Handfuls of almonds throughout the day provide doses of protein and healthy fats to help sustain energy levels.
- Greek Yogurt: This kind of yogurt offers the double benefit of high protein plus calcium for bone health, and some Greek yogurt even contains probiotics for better gut health.
- Jerky: Opt for lean and low-sodium jerky, which can be beef, turkey, or even a plant-based version.
- Protein bars: The most packable protein snack, protein bars are good in moderation. Choose products with low sugar and natural ingredients for the best nutritional value.
These types of high-protein snacks will help stave off hunger and support energy levels, helping to keep employees satisfied and sharp throughout the day.
Nutrient-dense foods provide a high amount of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids relative to their caloric content. All of the snacks described above are relatively dense in nutrients, but there are even more choices to consider for variety and extra flavor.
- Kale chips: Though not particularly filling, these savory veggie bites are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Chia seed pudding: A blend of omega-3s, protein, and essential nutrients, chia pudding is delicious and easy to make. It can be prepared in advance and stored in a fridge for convenient snacking.
- Goji berries: These tangy-sweet berries are rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals, excellent for boosting energy and mood.
- Veggies and hummus: Raw vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli offer a myriad of brain-boosting nutrients. They pair perfectly with hummus, which is high in protein and healthy fats.
- Tuna pouches: Portable tuna snacks are rich in protein, omega-3s, and iodine—another essential nutrient for the brain. Pair some tuna with whole-grain crackers and vegetables for a filling and well-balanced workplace snack.
Providing these tasty and nutritious options can significantly boost snacking satisfaction while delivering the energy necessary to power a day of work.
Snacking Strategies for the Workplace
Productivity thrives in a work environment where employees feel their work-life balance is prioritized, and emphasis on healthy eating is one way for employers to show a commitment to employees’ total wellness. Stocking healthy snacks in the break room is a good way to start, but employers can do more by actively involving team members with nutrition strategies. The many ways to do this include:
- Accept suggestions for snack suggestions from everyone on the team;
- Ask confidentially about dietary preferences and restrictions;
- Invite feedback on food selections and availability;
- Partner with healthy stores or restaurants to give discounts on healthy eating outside of the office, such as during lunch breaks or while traveling for business functions;
- Offer incentives for healthy lifestyles outside of work, such as gift cards for health-food stores or reimbursement for gym memberships.
Remember that productivity is influenced not just by the work environment, but also by conditions in employees’ everyday lives. That’s why organizations should do what they can, without overstepping any personal boundaries, to support employees in making healthy and fulfilling lifestyle choices.
Overcoming Challenges and Addressing Concerns
Embracing a culture of healthful snacking is sure to reap multiple benefits, but is not likely to be without challenges. As any manager is well aware, it’s simply not possible to please everyone, and the situation is certainly no different with dietary matters. Other difficulties may arise with logistics or with the budget, but anticipating these obstacles and planning for solutions can help.
The shift to healthier eating is ultimately a personal decision, but one that can be significantly influenced by the actions of others. If some employees choose not to embrace a culture of mindful snacking, their eating habits may affect other employees and make goals more difficult to achieve. That’s why earning buy-in from the whole team is important for success.
Including employees in the planning process is an important step for obtaining buy-in. Another strategy is to emphasize—rather than just the productivity benefits—that employees can enjoy by adopting healthier habits. Additionally, managers should lead by example in healthy snacking and should encourage open dialogue with employees about ways to improve.
Financial constraints are a factor in any employee wellness program, but a business can utilize various methods to control costs when it comes to food. Buying in bulk, purchasing direct from suppliers, or partnering with local businesses for discounts are some potential ways to save money.
Continual communication with employees about their preferences can also help optimize costs and avoid over-purchasing. Additionally, employers should keep in mind that increased productivity and reduced absenteeism can produce real returns for the business over time.
In any workforce of a decent size, a range of dietary preferences and restrictions are likely to be represented. The snack selection should try to accommodate everyone’s individual needs, however, both for the sake of promoting an inclusive work environment and for ensuring that every employee can operate at his or her personal best. A simple solution is to provide a wide range of choices, prioritizing offerings that are non-dairy, gluten-free, and vegetarian so that the majority of people have agreeable options to choose from.
Particularly important to keep in mind is the possibility of medical conditions that affect one’s diet. People with certain diseases might require significant lifestyle changes to avoid harmful foods, so these are critical to remain aware of. Some common conditions include influencing diet include:
- Lactose intolerance: This is a reaction to lactose, a type of sugar in most dairy products. People with this condition may be able to eat low-lactose alternatives like hard cheeses, probiotic yogurt, and non-dairy substitutes like almond milk.
- Celiac disease: This is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, a protein contained in cereal grains. People with celiac cannot eat wheat products but may enjoy gluten-free alternatives like flour made from corn, rice, soy, or potatoes.
- Diabetes and pre-diabetes: People with these chronic conditions must carefully regulate their intake of carbohydrates, and are especially sensitive to foods with added sugars.
- Food Allergies: Allergies to various foods are quite prevalent, and they can range from mild to severe. Peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish are some of the most common foods causing serious allergies. Anyone with severe allergies should make them known so that co-workers can avoid endangering them with certain foods.
- Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD): Also known as chronic acid reflux, this is a condition wherein stomach acid frequently flows into the esophagus. While not life-threatening, GERD symptoms can be quite uncomfortable and can negatively impact a work day. Common triggers include coffee, carbonation beverages, and foods that are fatty, spicy, or acidic.
People with one of these conditions may not always know they have it, or may not be aware of how best to manage symptoms. Choosing healthy foods can go a long way in alleviating the effects. Anyone noticing possible signs of a condition should see a doctor for a diagnosis. The good news is that medications are available to treat GERD and to treat any of the dietary disorders described here.
While nutrition can certainly increase workplace productivity, mindful snacking is really about more than job performance. It’s about work-life balance and total wellness. The benefits of mindful snacking can extend far beyond the workplace, contributing to lifelong health and happiness.
Posted by The GERDHelp Team