During a time when obesity and diabetes are on the rise, Americans are encouraged to eat healthier at every turn. Except when you turn to your office’s kitchen, that is. And I bet you’ve wondered why. Why are the vending machine and kitchen in your office filled with unhealthy snacks and beverages, while the rest of the country is trying to get on track health-wise? Is your office manager just not concerned with health? Did someone not get the memo?
The answer is because they have to be filled that way. What most people don’t know about their workplace is that the company — or sometimes the office building — has contracts with vending machine companies or food and beverage brands. We know…mind-blowing. This means the brand or vending company will deliver the product or machine, but they also have control over what goes in the vending machine or onto the shelves of the common area. So, if your place of work has a contract with Pepsi, the vending machines will be filled with products like Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Lays potato chips, because those are all PepsiCo products. The same goes for Coca-Cola; you would see products like Coke and Fanta. Now, you can try to go to your office manager to request that healthy snacks and healthy beverages be offered, but there is a good chance you will be declined because of these contracts — and it’s not the office manager’s fault.
The good news is that some companies, like Google and Facebook, are pitching in and stocking their shelves with mostly healthy snacks, so that employees aren’t limited to what’s in the vending machine. They found it was a better way to attract talent and also led to healthier employees. If your company hasn’t jumped on the nutritious bandwagon yet, hopefully they will soon.
The bad news is that until then, your health might suffer. Many Americans are finally trying to eat and drink healthier, but in the office, they don’t have that option. When your place of work has a vending contract, you can’t customize the machine, even if you wanted to. Which means if you don’t prepare for your mid-afternoon hunger pangs, you may have to resort to a greasy bag of chips.
However, don’t give up. Here are ways to get around the unhealthy snacks:
1. If you really want access to healthier products in the workplace, brands like ours (hint water) will allow you to buy online and ship them to your office via the direct-to-office delivery program, and we aren’t the only healthy brand that does this. The FruitGuys will deliver loads of fresh produce to your office door; they just can’t go in the vending machines. What you offer in your office not only affects your peers, but also makes an impression on visitors. Which beverages and snacks reflect who you are as a company and culture, or who you want to be? Everything makes an impression — and what you offer is a key part of building your office culture and your company brand. This may even convince the higher-ups to rethink renewing their vending contracts.
2. If your office manager or colleagues don’t seem so excited by this idea, suggest a healthy "happy hour" where you sample healthier options and vote as an office on which ones you want to bring in to the office.
3. Ask your manager or HR department if you or someone else can create a healthy office program that not only keeps healthier snacks and beverages on hand, but also holds 30-minute walks, runs or yoga classes daily or weekly to get people moving and more energized.
My advice to you is to be prepared to face the dreaded vending machine. If you have to use it, know what’s inside it; beware of what they are calling healthy versus what really is healthy; and eat vending machine snacks in moderation. In fact, the safest thing to do would be to avoid them altogether. Have a stack of healthy snacks at your desk by ordering from outside companies, and you’ll never go hungry again!
Kara Goldin is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.