Whether your team is enjoying expensed meals while working from home or participating in group food orders while we slowly get back to the office, there are many ways to encourage everyone to order healthier meals. What makes a meal healthy? Look for dish variety, customizability, vegetable options and non-fried dish options when searching for restaurants to choose for your next large group food order. Why is it important for your team to eat healthy? One main reason is that eating a healthy balanced diet is linked to increased productivity. In fact, a healthy diet can raise productivity levels by up to 20%. Other benefits include improved concentration, energy levels and even a mood boost. On the other hand, employees with unhealthy diets can be 66% more likely to report reduced job performance, according to a recent study

Check out these tips to inspire your team to consider healthier options for your next group lunch order:

1. Opt for “build our own” concepts.

Many of our restaurant partners offer customizable, build your own bowl, sandwich, burrito, salad or other types of lunch options. This style of ordering allows the individual to be in control of their meal with the option to add a healthier topping such as vegetables to a sandwich or eliminate items based on their preference or dietary restrictions. 

This allows your team to build individualized meals suited to their needs, which can be particularly important for those with restricted options such as food allergies. Native Foods in Chicago offers many customizable options, for example, their Crazy Good Grilled Chicken Sandwich comes with options to remove ingredients or order those items on the side:

Poke Bar in Portland is another great example of a build your own concept. They offer customizable poke bowls with multiple base and protein options as well as lots of vegetable mix in options and an array of sauces. 

2. Go “plant based”.

Consider the ratio of vegetables and plant based proteins to starch and meat options on a menu. Look for restaurants that offer many options consisting of non-starchy, leafy green vegetables and plant based proteins (which include foods such as beans, lentils, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds) can help steer your team towards healthier, more nutrient dense meal options. You don’t have to be a strict vegan to enjoy some meatless meal options, in fact themes such as “meatless monday” can be used to inspire your team to think outside the box and increase their consumption of fruits, vegetables and plant based proteins at lunch time. Fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals which help support a health digestive system and boost the immune system. For example, Aladdin’s Eatery in Cleveland offers many options for plant based, vegetable forward meals, such as the Hummus Falafel Rolled wrap:

Gracias Madre in San Francisco is a Mexican restaurant dedicated to vegetarian cuisine and known for its plant based Mexican cuisine. Enchiladas Rojas, for example, are stuffed with vegetables and served with beans and greens. Gracias Madre even offers customizability with options to add vegetable or protein based toppings:

3. Customizable options are key.

Look for restaurants that offer vegetable sides or add ons in place of starchy, processed foods. A side salad or cup of broth based soup instead of chips with a sandwich is a great way to improve the nutrition of a meal. In addition, having the option to add vegetable toppings to sandwiches, burrito, pizza or other composed dish is another great option. Other customization include swapping white bread or pasta to whole wheat for a sandwich, burger, pizza or pasta meal, as well as skipping the bread entirely and eating the meal in a bowl or salad format instead. Bareburger in Queens offers high quality, highly customizable burger and salad options. Consumers can select their bun type or opt for no bun, as well as choose their protein, add vegetables, cheese, dressing or even remove certain ingredients. 

4. Quality matters.

Look for buzz words like organic, seasonal, and non-GMO to ensure quality of the ingredients. According to the United States department of agriculture, produce may be called organic if “it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.” Organic meats require that “animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.” Seasonal produce relates to fruits and vegetables that are naturally in season during a certain time of year. For example, strawberries are in season during the summer months, as shown by this seasonal produce guide. The benefits of eating seasonally include a boost in your nutrition (a vegetable eaten in season in naturally more nutrient dense), more beneficial for the environment (seasonal produce travels less distance and undergoes less processing and packaging) as well as saves you money (when fruits and vegetables are in season, they are abundant and available at a lower price).

5. Opt for non-fast food chains.

Although some fast food chains offer healthier dishes such as salads or bowls, more often than not these types of restaurants consist of highly processed and/or fried food options. Vegetable options can be extremely limited, making for a not-so-healthy lunch option. Instead of traditional fast food restaurants, opt for a more local, mom and pop type of restaurant. Not only will your team be supporting local business, but it is more likely to find a healthier meal option for your group lunch order. The Party Helpers in San Jose, for example, is a woman owned catering company that has been in business for over forty years. Kristin Dickens, the owner, has done an amazing job providing healthy, high quality meals to companies and individuals throughout the years. Their herbed chicken breast with artichokes is a healthy, comforting lunch option sure to please team members looking for a hearty and satisfying meal when ordering their group lunch order or expensed meal. 

6. Select from our Healthy Eats carousel.

The healthy eats carousel features all of our nutritionist approved restaurants in all markets. Our team of nutritionists select restaurants based on a certain type of criteria, including (but not limited to) vegetable, whole grain and lean protein options as well as quality of ingredients.

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7. Choose certain types of cuisine.

Cuisine types, such as Mediterranean, Japanese, Greek and Spanish tend to have more options for healthier meals. Mediterranean and Greek cuisine tends to be higher in vegetables, heart healthy fats, plant based proteins and fish. Japanese and Spanish cuisines tend to be lighter in fare and have more fish and seafood options as well as broth based dishes and vegetables. It can be a bit easier to find nutrient dense meal options when ordering group lunch with these types of cuisines. For example, sushi is usually a crowd pleaser and with many fish options such as sashimi, this can definitely be a healthy choice. Chikarashi in Manhattan offers a new take on Asian cuisine offering traditional sashimi meal options as well as fish and rice based bowls. 

Healthier lunch options are readily available from a variety of restaurants and with these tips, your team is sure to have their preferred choice. Still considering whether group food orders or expensed meals is right for your team? According to an Upwork survey, 1 in 10 employees has an internet stipend, office supply stipend, and virtual happy hours to attend, but only 1 in 20 has food delivery. In fact, 56% of employees said that food benefits would increase their productivity. 

Both Group Orders and Expensed Meals provide a simple solution to help every employee find a delicious, hassle-free, and personalized meal to keep them happy, healthy, and more productive. It’s easy to start your order, whether you are eating right away or scheduling a meal in advance for breakfast, lunch or dinner and all meals can be expensed to a single corporate account. Contact us today to see how we can help.

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author-kelseygonzalez
Kelsey Gonzalez, RD, MDA
Registered Dietitian

Kelsey Gonzalez is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in dietetic administration and has been working in the health and nutrition field for over a decade. She has worked in a variety of settings including nutrition counseling, corporate wellness and sports nutrition with collegiate athletes. Kelsey’s happy place is the beach. In her free time, you can find her there, along with her tribe: hubby, three kids under the age of four, and their loyal rescue pup.