Consider the Salad Bar for Business Lunches: High-Protein Diets May Lead to Cancer

Posted by on Monday, March 24th, 2014 with Comments Off on Consider the Salad Bar for Business Lunches: High-Protein Diets May Lead to Cancer Comments

The Paleo diet may be the one of the most buzzed-about health trends of the last few years, but a new study is suggesting that such protein-rich diets might be linked to cancer risk and a shorter lifespan. If your office is working to promote employee wellness, take note: the potential health ramifications of eating lots of protein, especially animal-based, over the long term shouldn’t be ignored.

pepperoni and sausage pizza

We may have a meat-lovers’ problem in America… and our offices.
Image source: Flickr user camknows

The study from the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California tracked the eating patterns of more than 6,300 people in middle age — that is, 50 and over. Researchers found that people who ate high-protein diets (with 20% or more of their daily calories coming from protein) were four times more likely to die of cancer than people who only took less than 10% of their diets from protein sources. They were also three times as likely to die from diabetes, and had higher death rates from any cause.

Of course, the story isn’t that simple (as it rarely is in nutrition studies!). People who ate larger amounts of plant-based proteins (like legumes and nuts) saw a significant reduction in their risk of death compared to those who ate a lot of animal-based proteins, both from meat and dairy.

After the age of 65, though, high-protein diets seemed to have the opposite effect: people in that age group who ate more protein lived longer than those who didn’t. The study’s author, USC professor Valter D. Longo, suggests to The Wall Street Journal that, “Those high-protein diets were developed with a shortsighted vision. On a high-protein, high-fat diet you can lose weight, but in the long run you may be hurting yourself.”

hummus and vegetable platter

Vegetables and whole grains should be the centerpiece of a healthy catering table.
Image source: Flickr user Mark H. Anbinder

Longo believes Americans are eating about twice as much protein as they should be. It’s true: protein is often seen as the centerpiece to a meal. Even in the office, we seem to think that meat makes a catered lunch or even pizza party complete, from the deli-style turkey piled on sandwiches to the pepperoni atop our pies. This can run contrary, though, to the advice that our workplace wellness programs tend to give out, and to the tenets of highly-supported eating philosophies like the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet.

How can the office provide meals that may not be centered around protein, but will still be seen as whole, well-rounded business lunches and staff breakfasts?

When you order Mexican takeout, instead of entrees based around chicken or steak, order tacos or burritos stuffed full of brown rice and black beans, then topped with salsa and fresh guacamole. There will be plenty of plant-based protein in the beans, fiber in both the beans and the whole-grain brown rice, and healthy, monounsaturated fat in the guacamole. Your staff won’t even notice there’s no carnitas to be found!

Instead of a pizza party to celebrate meeting a goal or scoring a big account, set up an elaborate salad bar — only instead of wimpy-looking lettuce and sliced carrots, choose heartier ingredients as your base. A Mediterranean-inspired salad like tabbouleh, complete with bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley, is refreshing and surprisingly filling, while a quinoa and black bean Southwestern-style salad offers enough plant-based protein to fill even a hungry eater. Provide hummus, hearty bean dips, and plenty of sliced raw vegetables and whole-wheat crackers, too.

vegetarian pasta dish

Hearty, whole-wheat pasta loaded with vegetables makes for a satisfying office lunch.
Image source: Flickr user foodswings

Many vegetarians can attest that Italian is the easiest cuisine to deliver satisfying meatless dishes. A catering table full of fresh, whole-wheat pasta, pesto-topped flatbreads, and lasagna stuffed with eggplant instead of sausage or beef will satisfy a hardworking team – just ask the restaurant or chef to go easy on the cheese.

The key to eating the right amount of protein is to have plenty of whole grains and vegetables on hand to keep diners feeling satisfied – simply substituting lots of processed carbohydrates will only lead to energy crashes and a whole different set of health problems. And when it comes to providing hearty, healthy business lunches or overtime meals, is here to help! No-fuss online ordering, recurring catering service, and prompt food delivery makes feeding your team the easiest part of your day.

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 — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

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