Google, What Should I Eat?


It’s a popular refrain amongst registered dietitians: don’t confuse your Google search with my credentials. But what if I told you: the folks over at Google are onto something when it comes to nutrition? Here, some insight into their employee food program, and strategies you can implement at home to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice.

I recently had the chance to tour fruit and vegetable crops with the farmers who grow them just outside of Sacramento. In the midst of a great day (sponsored by Bayer Crop Science) that also showcased the latest in agricultural innovations - everything from technology that allows farmers to collect info on soil health and download it to their mobile devices to the latest in water-conserving irrigation techniques - a dietitian from Google lent some insight into their in-house nutrition. Chavonne Hanson, MPH, RD, boasts an impressive title, by the way: Food Choice Architecture and Nutrition Manager.

The word “architecture” in conjunction with “dietitian” might sound a bit off-kilter, but design is a huge part of what makes Google’s program work. Another huge component to its success? Employees have access to complimentary food and beverage for the entirety of their work day. As you might imagine, running such a program requires quite a bit of planning for it to reach Google’s lofty-sounding aspirations: to bring people together with delicious, crave-worthy food that enables individuals to be at their best. When breaking it down, the strategy to get there is one we should all be following:

  • Encouraging more fruit and vegetable consumption;

  • Making water the beverage of choice - but not the ONLY choice;

  • Decreasing intake of sugar and salt.

So how does Google make the above a reality? Much of the program’s success can be attributed to the core concept of making the healthiest choice the easiest choice. For example, Google’s micro-kitchens (areas in which employees dine) feature fresh fruits and vegetables and water prominently. There’s always a bowl of seasonal fresh produce within reach, and water is front and center and readily available. But what about that last bit about ensuring palatability in the absence of excess sugar and sodium? Well, so serious has Google been about food from day one, they hired a chef before hiring a human resource specialist! The chef-driven focus allows the eponymous corporation to not only serve up nearly 300,000 meals per day, but layer on culinary experiences that give employees the extra nudge to get in their own kitchens AND consider the food system at large.

So what’s there to learn from Google about food? Apparently quite a bit! Try these tips in your own kitchen:

  • Invest in a water filtration system and reusable bottles to make good old H2O the easiest choice;

  • Purchase fruit in various stages of ripeness so the perfect pick is available at arm’s length throughout the week;

  • Stock your freezer with veggies for easy-to-assemble, nutritious meals in little time;

  • Take advantage of convenience foods - bagged salad greens, pre-spiralized veggies, and canned beans - and add more nutrition to your plate.

Does your workplace offer free food? I’d love to hear about your on-the-job eating experiences in the comments below!

Enjoy your food! Enjoy your life!