We all know the feeling. Your belly is grumbling, patience is wearing thin, you’re tired, unmotivated and cranky. The feeling is so common a phrase has been coined to describe it – “hangry”. A combination of “hungry” and “angry”. And it is indeed a real thing, a biological response to the stress induced by hunger.
Let’s look at the ways employers can can take positive steps to get the very best out of their workers - starting with the impact that hunger has on your day.
Physiological effects of hunger
When it’s been too long since our last meal or snack, our blood sugar levels drop and the body releases stress hormones to regulate blood sugar. Just as a car with low fuel can’t get very far, neither can we, physically or mentally. And it’s no wonder – the preferred fuel for both our muscles and our brains is glucose. Without enough, we can’t concentrate or think clearly and we may feel sleepy or make more mistakes than usual. All of these symptoms are a protective mechanism. Our bodies are speaking to us and the message is clear – “we need some food, STAT!”. This sleepiness and lack of concentration can happen in the workplace and no one wants a workforce that is distracted, sluggish and irritable. Of course, this biological cascade can be avoided by simply providing opportunities for employees to eat regularly.
Intentionally Designed Meals
It isn’t just eating infrequently that can cause blood sugar levels to drop. Blood sugar can also crash if it was recently high. The body responds to a sudden influx of a lot of sugar, say in a 20oz bottle of soda, by pushing it down quickly. These fast spikes up and down can leave you feeling sluggish. This is where we must consider the type of foods that are available for employees and what impact they will have. How do we break this cycle? Through foods that are rich in fiber and nutrients.
Promoting mental clarity and focus
Fiber provides sustained energy by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose and allows for a gradual absorption of those glucose molecules into the blood stream. It is found in a wide variety of foods, like vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes nuts, seeds and whole grains and the benefits are impressive. Adequate fiber can increase satiety and aids in stabilizing blood sugar which helps to promote mental clarity, creativity and focus during our workday. Providing food options that have adequate fiber has daily benefits in allowing your employees to work at their best everyday.
One study even found that the more fiber-rich vegetables and fruits people consumed on a daily basis, the more creative, happy and engaged they tended to be. And those that ate five servings of fruits and vegetables at least four days per week demonstrated a 25% higher job performance than those that did not. Vegetables and fruits provide essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which reduce inflammation, boost mood and support mental health. How do you do this? Ensure your food provider has a wide variety of produce options available throughout the day, that incorporates whole grains, legumes, and lentils in a way that is appealing to your employees.
Don’t be drowsy
Let’s also consider the benefits of providing nutritious snack options for employees. Eating smaller, more frequent meals is another strategy to help stabilize blood sugar and prevent that beastly hunger. This is key when it comes to making wise food choices. Feeling famished makes employees more impulsive and more likely to seek out high calorie, fatty foods to correct the energy deficit, also referred to as a “self-control failure”. The body sends blood and oxygen to the gut to digest these big meals, which leave us feeling sleepy. Not something we want – a drowsy work crew. Employers can combat this by making nutritious snack options available at the office.
Offering these nutritious foods is a proactive strategy to nip hunger in the bud, prevent blood sugar dips and impulsive food choices and support good health among employees. Having a food service provider that understands the huge impact that food can have is crucial. You want your food service provider on your side, working with you to support peoples’ physical, mental and emotional wellness through food. From there, employers can reap the rewards of a workforce that is well cared for.