Fresh snacks – a natural productivity enhancer

June 12, 2015


There's an endless stream of scientific evidence showing how indulging on traditional vending machine snacks is wreaking havoc on our health. But that alarming list of repercussions (which includes life-threatening diseases like obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease), just got a new addition: major drop in work productivity.

While this may not sound alarming, it is more prevalent among adult population than any other condition, slowly diminishing our quality of life.

The first indicator of the positive impact of good nutrition on an employee's productivity was a World Health Organization (WHO) report released in 2003, which noted that "adequate nourishment can raise national productivity levels by 20 per cent."



Two years later, Christopher Wanjek's book, "Food at Work", delivered a broader picture of this phenomenon. "Work, instead of being accommodating, is frequently a hindrance to proper nutrition [...] Vending machines are usually filled with biscuits, chocolate and salty snacks. The result is a staggering blow to productivity and health", notes Wanjek, a renowned health writer with a Master of Science degree in environmental health from Harvard School of Public Health.

As the book unfolds, he offers a solution: "Vending machines these days can provide a variety of nourishing foods, even hot soups, yet occupy little space and cost far less for businesses too small to operate a canteen".

Wanjek also gives Dole as an example of a company who cares about what goes into its employees bodies. "The main changes include: discounts on healthy foods; a “smoothie” machine, vegetables, herbs or teas often with yogurt; and healthy fat-free or low-fat desserts; vending machines with healthy options."


And if there were any lingering doubts about it, a 2012 study brought crushing evidence that munching on sugar-loaded snacks in between tasks greatly hinders one's alertness.

Health science professor Ray Merrill of Brigham Young University, Utah, discovered that "employees with an unhealthy diet were 66 percent more likely to report having a loss in productivity as opposed to healthy eaters". To reverse this process, Merrill suggests making fruits and vegetables available for workers at all-times, especially for women between 30 and 40 years of age – the groups most likely to experience productivity losses.



Even so, eliminating snacks all together from office buildings is not the way to fix this problem. Instead, like the authors cited above mentioned, companies should introduce new, healthier options.

Dark chocolate is a better-for-you treat than a candy bar; nuts are literally “food for the brain” and far exceed the nutritional values of a bag of Doritos; salads packing whole grains and greens provide enough energy to help one power through the most dreadful projects.

Still, fresh squeezed juices or smoothies remain the fastest, most natural productivity enhancers. As shown in "Juicing for Health" by Julie Stafford, oftentimes the root of mental fogginess lays in dehydration. Stafford, a healthy eating guru, even created a list of best juicing ingredients for brain focus like apple, avocado, cabbage, cucumber, papaya, spinach, strawberry and spinach.



In fact, these are the cornerstones of the Herb-N-Juice menu.

The 'Green Horn' juice, made of apple, celery, cucumber and the beloved kale, is the closest thing one can get to pure energy. Another good way to increase your attention span? The 'Orange Sunshine' juice, a delicious combination of orange, apple, carrot, celery and ginger. Both of them costs more than a typical energy/soft drink, but overall less than the medical bill for cavities, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems experienced by soft drinks users.


And while her recipes are meant to give people the know-how of at home juicing, stocking a vending machine with these kind of tasty concoctions is easier than it seems. If stored in proper conditions, fresh juices/smoothies hold perfectly for up to 48 hours – this machine in Minneapolis lets costumers fill their own cups with raw juice, previously loaded into stainless steel containers.

But the one who brought to light the healing benefits of juicing was nutritionist Cherie Calbom, through her “The Juice Lady's Guide to Juicing for Health”, initially published in 2000. Among the conditions Calbom claims juicing can treat is listed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affects 3 to 5 percent of adults. On top of being notorious procrastinators, patients suffering from ADHD have trouble keeping their focus on a given tasks and tend to get easily frustrated.

Calbom theory is backed up by countless studies from top-notch universities demonstrating that drinking vegetable juice can boost mental performances. Her advice on choosing food is crystal clear: “if you can't pronounce it, don't buy it”.


Fortunately, vending machines with natural, recognizable ingredients are not a thing of the past anymore and help fuel both students and employees all over the country.

Chicagoans are particularly lucky. Last year, a 27-year-old entrepreneur named Luke Saunders brought in downtown Chicago "Farmer's Fridge", a vending machine featuring mouth-watering, organic salads.

But a recent study by Northwestern University shows just how fond Chi-town residents are of healthy snacks. So much that they are willing to pay more: "the healthier snacks boosted average monthly per-machine sales from $84 to $371 in a little over a year across the Chicago Park District". Maryann Mason, one of the study’s main researchers believes these are signs of a developing trend among consumers.

It really starts to give us evidence challenging the conventional wisdom that people are reluctant to buy healthy things, because clearly, people will".

What all these experts are basically saying is this: business goes down the drain if the staff eats poorly. Perhaps, CEO's should consider taking their mother's old advice as a part of their workers engagement strategy: “Eat your greens!”


Andreea Ciulac

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