How Google’s Cafeteria Keeps Employees Healthy

When it comes to perks, Google’s the gold standard. If you work at Google, your day is a sea of nap pods and free cereal and independent projects. (And, OK, probably some work in there, too. Google employees tend to put in long days.) But there’s perhaps no greater fringe benefit than Google’s cafeteria, where the gourmet food is unlimited, locally farmed, and culturally diverse.

It’s also a trick, sort of. In addition to encouraging Googlers to work those longer hours, the free food the company offers is specially designed to be as healthy as possible. The thought, of course, is that healthy food will equal healthy employees, which saves health care costs and prevents absenteeism.

Bon Appetit recently went behind the scenes at the Google cafeteria to see how head chef Scott Giambastiani makes it easier for Googlers to make healthy choices:

1. The healthy food is right out front — but you have to work to get to the soda.

“When you walk into many Google cafeterias, the first thing you pass is the vibrant salad bar,” writes Melinda Wenner Moyer. “The idea is that if you fill your plate with produce, you’ll go lighter on everything else.”

2. Smaller Plates Encourage Smaller Portions

As any dieter will tell you, big dinner plates just beg to be filled. Google solves this problem by offering smaller plates. Workers can fill up as many times as they want, but at least they’re being encouraged to plan smaller portion sizes. Google also offers scales to help workers figure out how much they’re eating.

3. Green Means Go

Google has assigned food to different categories and labeled it according to healthiness. A green label means “go” for large quantities, and includes foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Yellow foods (e.g. lean proteins) should be eaten less often; red foods (fat, sugar, etc.) should be eaten rarely.

4. Healthier Comfort Foods

Whenever possible, Google swaps in healthier foods, substituting lean turkey for beef and pureed vegetables for roux in gravy.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Would healthier food options at work help you make better nutritional choices? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.


(Photo Credit: Brett L./Flickr)