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Boost Employee Satisfaction: Cater to Their Diverse Dietary Preferences

Boost Employee Satisfaction: Cater to Their Diverse Dietary Preferences

Considering more than 170 foods have been reported as allergens in the past few decades, it has become crucial for workplaces to provide healthy, allergen-free food in workplaces. Inclusive dietary provisions should be on the list next to ergonomics and employee benefits. Whether it’s snacks in the office canteen, or buffet menu items at the end-of-year dinner, employers must consider all employees and their dietary requirements to foster a safe space for all.

So how do you go about keeping your employees safe and happy?

Productivity and Food in the Workplace

The benefits of a balanced diet are both personal and corporate. Employees who eat well concentrate better, experience increased cognitive function, and have more energy and motivation to complete tasks. Even one meal can affect your mental state and either energize you or bring on mental fog.

Research continues to show the effects of food on mental health and well-being. Foods with protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids can decrease depression and anxiety. This is why it’s essential to have healthy options in the office kitchen or cafe.  Equally important are menu items that incorporate allergen-free foods and multiple options.

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Understanding Allergies, Preferences and Sensitivities

It’s up to employers to oversee the process of getting safe and healthy options for employees onsite and during work events. Knowing that you are included and considered is essential to employee satisfaction. It’s crucial then, for employers to have some knowledge of food allergies and preferences.

Understanding food allergies

The FDA website shows that the allergies below count for 90% of reported allergens in the U.S. More than 40 percent of children and 50% of adults have experienced severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. When considering menus and meal items, this list should take priority. Allergens pose health risks and can result in emergency situations. Knowing these allergens will help you avoid hospital visits and liability:

  • Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in natural grains like wheat, rye and barley. Up to 6% of Americans experience sensitivity to gluten, while TC statistic have celiac disease which is gluten intolerance and can result in digestive issues, discomfort and TC.
  • Peanuts and tree nuts: This includes pecans, almonds, cashes and other nuts. They can cause nausea, cramps and anaphylactic shock which requires hospitalization. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 30% of people with peanut allergies also have tree nut allergies. Peanut allergies can cause skin reactions, throat tightening and anaphylaxis.
  • Seafood: Shellfish, fish and TC.
  • Lactose: Cow’s milk and other milk products like cheese and ice cream. When people with lactose intolerance eat milk products, they may experience stomach upset and symptoms that vary from mild to anaphylaxis.

Understanding Food Preferences

Although employees may not be allergic to certain food items, they may avoid them for different reasons. Food preferences can come from lifestyle, health or religious requirements. Some of the most common food preferences include:

  • Vegetarian: Restricts meat but allows for products with eggs and dairy.
  • Vegan: This diet mostly consists of plant-based foods and other lifestyle items. Anything that has meat or product from animals like dairy, eggs or gelatin is avoided.
  • Kosher: A Jewish dietary law restricting foods such as pork, and shellfish. Other foods should be certified Kosher or prepared under custom or observation.
  • Halaal: Muslim dietary restrictions that are similar to Kosher. All foods should be certified Halaal and exclude food with alcohol or blood.

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Managing Food Allergies and Preferences in the Workplace

When hosting events, meetings or outings that include food, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and organize food that’s inclusive and safe for everyone.

Consider Employees When Planning Events

Send out a list before events that employees can fill out. Include a checklist with food allergens, a section on food preferences or special diet types and an ’ other’ section where people can write any restrictions outside of the given choices.

Find Ways To Protect Employees With Food Allergies

When addressing food allergies in the workplace, it’s essential to consider what kinds of food are provided and how they are prepared. Ensure there are always some safe foods and snacks excluding allergens in canteens and vendinc machines.

For events, allergy safe meals or snacks should be prepared and stored separately to avoid cross-contamination. Ensure that catering companies or kitchen staff use separate cooking areas and utensils that are cleaned and disinfected each time if several dishes are on the menu.

Seek Expert Guidance

If your company budget allows, have a food service team that manages all food-related events in your workplace. Otherwise, ask your usual food service vendors or catering company to help you develop plans for incorporating allergen-free food in workplace menus.

Before food tables or buffets are open. Have the guests or employees with food allergies dish up first. This will prevent cross-contamination for serving utensils and ingredients. If it’s a small gathering, opt for allergy-safe foods only that everyone can eat like salads, finger foods, fruit and vegetable platters.

Label Food Items and Menus

Most people with dietary restrictions and allergies rely on food labels to determine whether food is safe for them to eat. Leave labels on food in office kitchens and ensure that open food tables have the correct labels during events.

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Host Educational Meetings

Another great way to ensure all employees feel safe and included is to offer personal support and educate other employees about allergies and special diet requirements. Create a safe space where people can ask questions and share their experiences with each other.

This can prevent awkward situations like jokes or exclusion based on dietary requirements or preferences. For example, an employee who is aware of the emotional impact of excluding a colleague with celiac disease when they bring office snacks for a meeting will remember to bring a gluten-free option next time. This can boost relationships between employee and foster an inclusive space where everyone feels comfortable.

Boost Employee Satisfaction

Planning workplace menus, meals and canteen snacks can be challenging with several dietary restrictions and requirements. However, the right knowledge and planning can make it less stressful and allow all employees to enjoy food freedom in the workplace. And happy employees mean a thriving workplace and a successful business.

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