Rather than focus on perks like arcade rooms and weekly massages, companies would do well to focus on a happiness-inducing perk that also improves performance: snacks.
When it comes to in-office perks, a lot of companies assume it’s the big, splashy amenities that matter most. Think in-house masseuses, extravagant game rooms, or on-site company gyms: the things that most companies either don’t have the budget or the space to accommodate.
But studies suggest that there’s a much more manageable prerequisite that can have an outsized impact on companywide productivity, engagement, and overall health and happiness.
In fact, it’s so simple that it’s easy to overlook: healthy office snacks.
It’s true. Going with healthier snacking options at work can positively impact an organization’s productivity in a number of key ways.
First, there’s the fact that what your employees eat directly affects their performance. According to Harvard Business Review, “Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance,” and a bad decision at the vending machine can derail a day’s worth of productivity. Healthier options — meaning minimally processed, low-glycemic foods that are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats — provide sustained energy for high performance throughout the day.
Also, consider that snacks impact one’s overall diet (and, therefore, overall health) more than any other meal category. A study of more than 200 adults in a worksite wellness program found that snacking choices at work affected both the quality of one’s diet and general health categories, like BMI. The healthier the snacking choices, the better the participants’ overall diet and health.
Finally, there’s the emotional component of healthy snacking at work. Employers who provide snacking options for their workers signal to their employees that they are cared for and appreciated, which in turn boosts engagement. It’s one reason why healthy snacks have been called the “key to happiness at work.”
Of course, the best way to ensure that your team members eat better is to find healthier options that they actually like. If you need some ideas, a recent study surveyed more than 10,000 snacking professionals about their healthy snack preferences.
But before jumping into the results, let’s explore a few quick options for hooking your office up with healthy snacks. (It’s easier than you might think.) Here are some healthy office snack providers, categorized by company size:
1-9 employees? UrthBox
For smaller offices, UrthBox is the way to go. This simple monthly service sends you boxes containing 100 percent GMO-free, organic, and natural snacks that will keep your team running on all cylinders.
10-500 employees? SnackNation
When your office starts to grow, things get a little trickier. More people in the office means more palates to please. SnackNation is a great option at this size. The brand takes all the effort out of the equation, delivering an expertly curated box of healthy snacks each month.
501-10,000 employees? Aramark
Once you get above the 500-employee mark, it’s time to think about full-service providers. Aramark really does it all, from on-site dining to snacking, coffee service, and even health and wellness initiatives.
More than 10,000 employees? Canteen
For the big boys (and girls), Canteen is the way to go. It’s got all the bells and whistles, including automated services like healthy vending machines and grab-and-go micromarkets, plus coffee service, dining, and more. Its premium offerings come with a hefty price tag, so this one’s best for large companies with the budget for it.
Now that you know how to get it, here’s what to get. Below are some of the best healthy office snacks as voted on by more than 10,000 hungry professionals.
Jerky has long been written off as an unhealthy indulgence relegated to gas stations and truck stops, but done right, jerky is incredibly healthy. It’s high in lean protein (which keeps you fuller longer), and it won’t raise insulin levels (which is great for weight loss). New artisanal varieties use premium meats and abstain from fillers, preservatives, and other artificial additives.
Recommendation: Field Trip Jerky
If protein is what you’re after, you can’t do much better than yogurt. A 6-ounce serving contains about 9 grams — not to mention a fair amount of calcium, vitamin B12, potassium, and magnesium. And, of course, yogurt famously contains beneficial probiotics that help maintain good digestive health.
8. Trail Mix
Trail mix combines foods rich in fiber, fats, and protein in one delicious snacking experience. This means you’ll feel full longer, and you’ll be eating lower net carbs. But like any pop music masterpiece, it’s all about getting the right mix. Make sure yours gets its sweetness from natural sources, not from candy or chocolate pieces.
Recommendation: Bearclaw Kitchen
7. String Cheese
Cheese gets a bit of a bad rap for having high caloric and fat content, but it’s also a great source of vitamin D, calcium, and protein. Remember to practice moderation — and keep in mind that not all cheese is created equal. Organic is always a better option; the less processed, the better.
Recommendation: Horizon Organic
Crackers help satisfy your appetite in between meals, and they’re a much better option than fried fare. Here again, the less processed, the better. Look for crackers that are 100 percent whole grain and don’t contain saturated fat.
Recommendation: Cello Whisps
5. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants and has been linked to improved heart health, lower cholesterol, increased cognition, and even cancer prevention. The darker the chocolate, the better, because these varieties tend to be made with less added sugar and contain more antioxidant-rich cocoa.
In the right quantity and made the right way, chips are definitely a healthy snack. These days, artisanal brands are cooking their chips in sunflower oil, avocado, and coconut oil. And just as the best form of exercise is the one you’ll do, the best healthy snack is the one you’ll actually eat. If you love chips, there are lots of better-for-you chip options that will satisfy your craving without sabotaging your diet.
Recommendation: Deep River
3. Protein Bar, Fruit and Nut Bar, or Energy Bar
If it seems like America is in the midst of a bar revolution, it’s because we are. Bars are so popular because they provide balanced, portable nutrition and can keep you full and energized for hours at a time. There are dozens of great bar makers offering healthy, great-tasting bars with just a few ingredients and minimal processing.
Nuts make a great snack, mostly because they contain healthy fats (including omega-3 fatty acids), protein, and fiber. But really, they’re great because they’re delicious.
Recommendation: AgStandard Almonds
1. Fruit or Dried Fruit
Fruit is a great office snack because it’s compact and portable, and some of them even come with their own natural carrying cases. If you get bored with ordinary fruits like apples and oranges, there are many kinds of dried fruit chews to get your daily dose.
Recommendation: Bare Snacks