What Can The School Lunch Overhaul Teach Us About Healthy Business Lunches?

Posted by on Thursday, March 20th, 2014 with Comments Off on What Can The School Lunch Overhaul Teach Us About Healthy Business Lunches? Comments

It may sound silly, but this nutrition news isn’t child’s play: in the last few years, school lunches have gotten a lot healthier. Prompted by the continual rise in childhood obesity, and driven by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, the national school lunch program underwent its largest overhaul in 30 years. The result? More vegetables, more whole grains, less salt, less fat… and perhaps a few lessons that business lunches and office meals could stand to learn.

kid eating healthy school lunch

What can grown-ups learn about healthy eating from school lunches?
Image source: Flickr user USDA.gov

Eating healthy meals helps us perform better on our daily tasks – regardless of whether we’re taking a spelling test or compiling a quarterly earning report. From consuming enough essential vitamins and minerals to avoiding sugary foods that may harm our memories, what we eat has a real impact on how we work.

And, of course, what we eat is one of the biggest factors that determines what we weigh. Obesity, in children and adults, can indicate a higher risk of health problems ranging from type 2 diabetes to sleep apnea to cancer.

That’s why school lunches have been under a microscope in the last few years, being scrutinized by the likes of the First Lady to politically-minded celebrity chefs to the media. It’s also why employers would be well-advised to place the same priority on promoting good nutrition during business lunches and office breakfasts: healthy students and healthy employees are better ones!

lunch tray with portions

More fruit & veggies is rule #1.
Image source: flickr user USDAgov

So what can the average office learn from the years of research and activism around school lunches? A few simple, but crucial, lessons:

1) Serve more fruits and vegetables. This common-sense edict is really the biggest change to the school lunch overhaul: two servings of fruits and vegetables have to be included at each meal, doubling the amount that was previously served. Consider how this guideline can be worked into office meals: ordering a big salad alongside veggie-loaded pizza for a quick delivery, adding an extra tray of roasted vegetables instead of mac & cheese at a catered lunch, or providing fresh berries instead of cookies as a dessert option in a pile of box lunches at a meeting.

2) Incorporate whole grains. Schools slowly phased in the requirement that all grains are whole-grain rich; that means pizza crusts are whole-grain, sandwiches are on whole-wheat bread, and brown rice is used instead of white. These are easy switches to make in the office, and whole grains have the fantastic benefit of helping prevent an afternoon energy slump.

3) Don’t forget about snacks. A recent addition to the school lunch overhaul introduced guidelines that would require snacks to include at least 50% whole grains, 1/4 cup of a fruit or vegetable, or have a fruit, vegetable, dairy, or protein as the first ingredient. In the office break room, consider stocking nuts or trail mix instead of potato chips; at an office meeting, serve hummus and sliced raw veggies or fresh fruit instead of cookies or chips and dip.

coworkers holding lunch tray

Whole grains, fruit, vegetables: healthy lunches matter at all ages.
Image source: flickr user TheBigLunch

4) Breakfast counts! Schools have long served free breakfasts to students who qualify based on income, because research has shown that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Students who eat breakfast concentrate better and have improved behavioral performance, too. As working adults, many of us may not make time for a wholesome breakfast, but employers can easily provide healthy items for breakfast meetings instead of empty calorie fare like doughnuts or pastries. Whole wheat toast with a nut butter, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt: these will all help employees start their days full of long-lasting energy rather than a spike-and-crash of energy levels caused by eating sugar for breakfast!

The bottom line is that nutrition matters at every age. For our waistlines, for our minds, even for our moods: what we eat makes a difference in the quality of our lives and our work. While employers may not have an obligation to care for their employees in the same way that schools do for children, it’s simply in everyone’s best interest to eat healthy at the office! And with prompt delivery, easy online ordering, and a wide range of menus available, the food delivery experts at Waiter.com make providing healthy office meals as easy as A-B-C.

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — Waiter.com is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & deliveryWaiter.com offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

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