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National nutrition month: Fuel your people the right way.

Hannah Foladi BSc MSc RD
March 9, 2023

Our in-house dietitian Hannah Foladi BSc MSc RD has been working with employers to help them optimise productivity and wellbeing through diets. As part of National Nutrition Month, Hannah will be offering her expert tips and advice to employers looking to do the same.


A typical working adult consumes 1/3 of their daily calorie intake during the workday. Having nutritious snacks readily available during the working day can not only impact employee health and wellbeing but can also have a significant impact on their cognitive performance, creativity and productivity.

Your employees will benefit from having some healthy snacks on hand.

We suggest:

  • Non-perishable staples such as dried fruit and nuts
  • Refreshing fibrous bites with a sustaining protein dip such as fruit slices and nut butter or vegetable sticks and hummus
  • Grab-and-go goodies such as bagged popcorn, vegetable crisps, crackers with individual cheese bites
  • Opportunity for missed breakfast like porridge pots and cereal bars

By encouraging snacking, you’ll see:

Increased energy levels and brain power

Your team’s ability to focus comes from having a good supply of energy from blood glucose and from the food we eat. Just to function, the brain uses 20% of the body's energy demand, so having a steady supply of ‘brain food’ throughout the day is key to keeping employees focused on daily tasks.

When fuel levels are running low, it’s likely that food is the only thing on their minds. We know that under-eating at work can have adverse effects on concentration and focus at work. If your employees are preoccupied with what’s for lunch, they’re less likely to be focused on the task at hand. Low blood glucose levels have been shown to negatively impact several domains of cognitive performance. Therefore, providing healthy snacks can help to stabilise energy levels and keep your employees focused on your company's mission, increasing their productivity.

The avoidance of ‘hangry’ co-workers

The demands of working life mean it’s often easy to get into the bad habit of missing or delaying meals to meet deadlines. Irritability due to going too long without food, often known as ‘hanger’, is real. When energy levels run low adrenaline is released into the bloodstream to try to raise blood sugar levels back to normal again. This defence mechanism is what happens in the ‘fight or flight’ response. However, without any real danger, research shows that extra energy in combination with the pangs of an empty stomach often results in anger, irritability and lower pleasure.

No one wants a cranky co-worker simply because they were too busy to grab something to eat. Having easy-to-access snacks on hand means you can prevent ‘hangriness’ in the office, bypass irritability and keep up a positive vibe in the office.

It’s not just in-office that ‘hanger’ can appear - the rising trend of remote working has been found to be a considerable driver in snack consumption. With endless snacks on demand, staying away from processed foods which are high in sugar or carbohydrates becomes more difficult. These types of snacks impact our bodies differently, the quick release of glucose (from sugar) gives a burst of energy followed by a lethargic crash. Proximity to snacks can increase consumption by 12-23%, so it’s key to make sure your working-from-home employees also have some healthy alternatives to hand. For your remote workers, many companies offer delivery of healthy snack boxes which can help keep your employees sustained.

Social benefits and avoiding ‘groupthink

Exercising willpower is hard, especially when you’re surrounded by colleagues and a group mentality. If the ‘social norm’ is to indulge in a never-ending supply of cake, chocolate and biscuits for celebrations or a ‘pick me up’, it’s likely there will be an impact on wider eating behaviours. One study found that while almost half of the people intended to choose a healthy snack, 27% would be too tempted by an unhealthy snack if it was available. This may be because research shows we mirror the food choices of those in our social circles. The desire to be part of the working group means choices made in the office can quickly impact food choices at home, increasing the risk of health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In the same way, if office social norms shifted towards eating healthily, it can influence good choices at home, too. A systematic review found colleagues can have a positive influence on eating behaviours. Co-workers bonding together over snack breaks with healthy food helps support one another in healthy choices. Co-worker social support has been shown to be effective as a weight management intervention and it has been shown this creates a ripple effect and opens doors to discuss other aspects of health.

Social snack spaces also offer an opportunity to take a screen break and bring people together. Taking a short break and talking with others offers a chance for co-workers to interact, share ideas and build team connections before returning refreshed to their work. We know regular breaks can improve motivation and productivity, so set the scene by offering some healthy snacks to improve food choices, as well as their mindset on return to work. A study of 405 adults found that those who had higher fruit and vegetable intake, compared to chips and sweets, were linked to greater curiosity, creativity and well-being, so what better way to give the whole team a boost? 

Culture and value

A survey of 247 employees has shown that employees who feel their company is supportive of healthy eating are more likely to choose foods beneficial for their health; rather than as an emotional regulation tool. By encouraging healthy snacks and meals, you’re showing your care for their health and wellbeing.

A worldwide study found that the majority of people find snacks beneficial for their mental (71%) and emotional (70%) wellbeing, as well as their physical wellbeing. So much so that a study of 1000 office-based employees showed that 67% were happier at work as a result of snacks provided to them. We also know happy employees, as a result of snacks, are 12% more productive. Healthy snacks = happier staff. 


Some 'food for thought'

Investing in snacks for your employees is one way to start addressing your employee's health behaviours. Working with Surgery Hero can help you invest in your employee's health in order to create a healthier company and healthier bottom lines. Get in touch to find out more:

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