Dietitian Katrina Stephanides explains how she curated a LeanBox for her health-conscious office
Healthy eating at work gets a lot of lip service, but we all have heard about foods that are perceived as healthy but might not be quite so great for us. That’s where independent registered dietitian Katrina Stephanides comes in. We met Katrina recently working with Ora, Inc. in Andover, MA. Her task was to curate a LeanBox that was a “safe space” for employees and was guaranteed to follow a specific set of dietary standards. We took the opportunity to chat with her about how she did it.
As a dietitian working in the corporate space, how would you describe your role?
Ora is very focused on the wellness and health of their employees. Stuart Abelson, Ora’s President & CEO, reached out to me originally to do individual nutrition counseling for employees as part of their employee benefits. Then, they asked me to assess the health and quality of LeanBox, determining whether it was a good fit for the company’s initiatives but also selecting which items would go into the LeanBox to ensure that it met their health and wellness standards.
In my corporate role, I will also work with them on other wellness initiatives like mindfulness, stress reduction, giving or coordinating talks for employees and coordinating fitness events for the employees.
What was the goal in bringing in LeanBox?
Ora has a traditional cafeteria available, but they wanted to bring LeanBox in to make it a “safe space” for employees to go in order to ensure everything they’re selecting was up to specific dietary standards. Essentially, so they wouldn’t have to think about it, they’d just know that the item was up to standard. LeanBox has the 80/20 rule in terms of providing healthful foods versus treats, but since Ora already had the cafeteria they wanted to go 100% healthy. We got rid of anything like chocolate or sweets that could be included because employees could get that in the cafeteria or bring them from home.
How did you determine what went into the LeanBox or what went onto the list of approved items?
We started off talking with some of the employees to see if there were any dietary restrictions, so we’d have something available for everyone. So we wanted to ensure we were taking into account people who had allergies to gluten, were vegetarian or were lactose intolerant, for example.
I worked directly with LeanBox to view all of the products, reach out to the food companies where we needed more details on the nutritional information and figure out which fit into our standards. I also got educated on lots of great products that I hadn’t heard of before. Some of the products that made the cut included:
- Prepared entrees: One of the things I looked for was calories, and I liked the prepared entrees because it provided calorie control. Of course, we are also concerned about sodium in prepared food — it can so often be sky high — but the majority of the entree options fit into our idea of a proper nutritional balance on the sodium side.
- Bars: One of the major things I looked at with protein and snack bars was sugar content as compared to the protein and fiber amounts. I wanted to be sure that we weren’t serving glorified candy bars. Most of the protein and snack bars on offer made the cut.
- Whole foods: Fruit, yogurt and other whole foods are a great option for healthy snacking, so these stayed on the list as well.
Aside from the LeanBox, how else are you working to curate the types of food offered to employees?
Ora does a lot of catered lunches, so we plan to work with the caterers to develop a safe menu to order from when they do these lunches to ensure that healthy options are offered.
Is this type of curation and “safe space” typical for companies?
No, it’s relatively rare to provide this curated menu that allows employees to order without a great amount of forethought, but it certainly makes their lives so much easier! Ora has around 125 employees. This is a great benefit for a relatively small company because it allows their employees one less thing to think about as they move through their day. Decisions on the healthfulness of specific items are made for them, and if they want to stick to those standards they know there’s a wide variety of items to choose from.