Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Google’s Impressive Healthy Food Program

Yellow peas and salami in spicy tomato sauce with potatoes
Food Diary (August 23, 2011)
Breakfast: Rolled oats with nectarine, flax seeds and sunflower seeds
Lunch: Yellow peas and salami in spicy tomato sauce with potatoes
Dinner: Carrot soup and oat flaxseed sourdough
Baking/sweets: No bake chocolate oat squares (very small amount!)

I used taco seasoning to make the spicy tomato sauce. The sauce was spicy and flavorful but I was after something spicier so it didn't quite meet expectations. As I am writing this I realized I should have added hot sauce. Too late now, wish I thought of it earlier. Sometimes the brain does not work well when you are hungry.

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An interesting article where Marion Nestle discusses Google's Impressive Healthy Food Program.  Google's Famous Food Program is available 24/7, it is free, healthy and good for the environment. Sounds too good to be true, but it is true.

One obvious question is that if food is free do the employees gain weight? Apparently they do, but not everyone does. There are employees who eat healthy food for the first time in their lives and they actually lose weight. 

Google labels its food and drinks in traffic lights colors: green means eat anytime, yellow means once in a while and red means don't eat often. The classification is done using Harvard School of Public Health's healthy eating pyramid. The distinction between yellow and red might be little blurred but the general message is that 'yellow' and 'red' food should be avoided. 

In the café's Google's strategy for promoting healthy choices include:
- Putting the healthiest products at eye level
- Using small plates
- Trying to include vegetables in everything
- Making healthier options available at all times
- Using the smallest sizes of snack foods (packages of 2 Oreos, rather than 6)
- Making it easy to be physically active (Google bicycles!)

Not everything is free. Employees have to pay for food at vending machines but even the vending machine has not escaped the 'promoting healthy eating' strategy. The prices are based not on weight but on nutritional content, such as:
- One cent per gram of sugar
- Two cents per gram of fat
- Four cents per gram of saturated fat
- One dollar per gram of trans fat

Quaker Chewy Bars sell for 15 cents each while the enormous Ghirardelli chocolate bar costs $4.25. This is interesting, its sort of like you pay for sugar and fat, the rest of the ingredients are free. Sometimes when you pay for something you appreciate it more. I am sure that was not the intention here!

Google's goals and the way it has gone about trying to achieve it is pretty impressive. Surely not every employee eats healthy but with different strategies and peer pressure I am sure it has had a fair few converts.

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  1. Oooh, what a beautiful photo from Everyday Food I Love...not exactly sure what it's made of, but I know I'd eat a plateful~

  2. Love the sushi photo!

  3. Wow, google gets involved with everything doesn't it!

  4. WOW. selling healthy food is expensive. google is seriously amazing. they had a base in ann arbor where i used to live! there's a youtube video of the google headquarters in cali and its AMAZING.

  5. hi three cookies, i think selling in smaller size packing, means smaller quantity, but it can be less economical compared to buying a bigger pack. one just need to have a greater willpower.
    avoid going to the supermarket,helps reduce temptations to all kinds of foodies out there.
    The yellow peas, salami and potatoes with tomato sauce look delicious and at green light :)

  6. I'm sure it's very difficult to work on a strategy for so many people. Everyone has different eating habits, ways to lose weight etc.. I for example prefer to eat a bit of everything (the "guilty" bits in smaller amounts), while some other people I know simply have to have a huge breakfast and are able simply to eliminate lots of dishes from their diet.
    Great initiative! Pity other companies don't do it.
    My brain doesn't work properly when I'm hungry too ;-)

  7. Genius! I love this idea and a great way to get your employees to at least try to have a healthy lifestyle. Is there anything google can't do?

  8. I have to say, I think that's an AWESOME idea. Along with having treadmills in offices instead of chairs!

  9. Carrot soup sounds awesome right now- especially with delicious bread

  10. Very interesting post about Google's program. What's written is pretty common sense to me growing up in Asia, but I guess it's hard to educate someone without knowing how to eat healthy. I think the signal idea is very easy to follow and give a great impression of what you are eating. Small portion is definitely necessary and "regular" portion here sometimes scares me. I saw someone who was eating 2 main plates at a restaurant and he was really huge (like me x 2). It's hart not being able to eat what you love, but the portion is easier to work with. I'm impressed with their program. Thanks for sharing - and my brain doesn't work when I'm hungry and I probably eat something first before even thinking....

  11. Lizzy: I think its beef

    Yummychunklet: thank you

    Lorraine: exactly, some good, some less good!

    Junia: I haven’t seen the video, I will check it out

    Cookingvarieties: exactly, greater willpower is needed. And thanks for the green light classification:)

    Sissi: exactly, everyone has a different style but this one is a step in the right direction. In Sweden its common for companies to offer free fruits to their staff. Not quite google standard though!

    Kitchen Belleicious: healthy employee equals more productivity, that’s the theory at least!

    Joanne: I think googles competitor will probably have treadmills in offices instead of chairs

    Erica: its getting cooler so soups are getting more appealing

    Nami: true, its not bad to eat unhealthy food in smaller portions instead of trying to avoid it altogether and then eating a lot of it. I’ve noticed portion sizes differs a lot country to country. I increased my eating capacity when I came to Sweden, the portion size is much larger than what I was used to.

  12. Ive seen a lot of pictures from Google cafe, it makes me wanna work there

  13. @angsarap : Who wouldn't? I forgot what show I saw one time where they showed Googles cafeteria and it was heavenly. Hope more companies try to emulate what Google did.