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Nutrition That’s WELL Done

Dining in a WELL-certified building is generally nutritious and yummy. Curious as to what that means? We work with building owners and the design team to ensure nutritional criteria are met for WELL Building Standard certification. Many clients today are focusing on nutrition and nudging diners to choose healthy options on the menu.  Our work involves operational and menu planning as well as design strategies to achieve these criteria.  Research shows that an individual’s nutritional habits are more likely to be positive when environmental conditions and influences are aligned to support healthy behavior.  Try this at home – place a beautiful decorative fruit bowl filled with all sorts of fresh fruit in the middle of your kitchen countertop.  I guarantee you will eat more fruit!

Our consulting team has proven strategies to help meet and exceed the nutritional criteria of the WELL Building Standard. Let’s delve into our approach.

Menu Consulting

We help clients develop menu concepts (think themes like Vegan, BBQ, Italian, Southern Regional) and menu items (think Ramen, stir fry, brisket, pizza). Then, we work with chefs and foodservice professionals to align nutritional parameters to proposed recipes. For instance, types of ingredients, ingredient sourcing, nutritional values, and calorie counts. With WELL building projects, often this means ensuring there are enough fruit and vegetable options listed on the menu. Other criteria include verification of organic ingredients, verification of zero additives/artificial ingredients, portion sizing, and calorie counts. Did you know that there are locations on a menu and menu board that attract more attention and thus, more sales? The strategy is to place healthy food selections in those areas. All foods, both packaged and fresh, must have clear identification of nutritional value with respect to ingredients and calories.

Food Advertising

There will always be foods that have higher levels of sugar and/or fat, but you don’t have to broadcast these. In fact, it’s important that these types of foods are NOT highlighted, spotlighted, or given any kind of discount price structure. Instead, the correct approach is to highlight and promote healthy, low sugar/fat foods, fruits, and vegetables.  And let’s not forget hydration with the promotion and offering of fresh, filtered drinking water via bottles and glasses.

Design Focal Points

Ever wonder why we typically place the salad bar in a middle island in a café? And we hide the high-calorie foods such as soda, chips, and fries (shhhh)?  We work with interior architects to highlight healthy foods. Many times, this is related to food placement, lighting, visual and ergonomic access to healthy food selections, and setting the environment to a more natural feel (think biophilia and colors in nature). In a café or self-service environment, this relates to food merchandisers and food station design.

Nutrition Education

Many clients want to educate staff members by providing fun and healthy cooking experiences. We design culinary test kitchens with this strategy in mind. Most of the time these kitchens do double duty – teaching kitchen during some hours and working pantry kitchen for catering or general meal services at other times of the day. On the topic of education, we also provide areas in the dining room that offer interactive nutritional education. Call it an Ed Zone. An example of this is the “build your plate” kiosk which allows customers to see the total nutritional content of an entire meal they select off the menu.

Allergen-Free Food Station and Kitchen

Most WELL facilities have the ability to efficiently serve foods that are free of the most common nine allergens. In some cases, we design a separate allergen-free food prep and cooking station. This allows for strict separation of ingredients. The goal is to minimize any cross-contamination of ingredients.

Serving Size Police

Research shows that the larger the food and beverage container/cup, the more calories you consume. WELL building food concepts generally offer smaller plate, bowl, and cup sizes. We design food and beverage stations and dispensers to meet these requirements. Also, there is a recommended portion size requirement for red meats – 4-ounce cooked weight is the suggested size.  Not that 12-ounce steak you were eyeing on the menu.

Organics, Humane Ag Labeling, and Local Farm Sources

There is an emphasis on whole grain foods and Certified organics. There is also a nod to meats that adhere to Humane Agriculture Labeling. A terrific way to connect with the local community is through farming.  Food fresh from the farm is very nutritious.  Farmed foods generally require a higher level of cleaning, so we design a fruit and vegetable washing station in the receiving area of the kitchen.

The Dining Room and Break Room Requirements

Mindful eating is an important part of nutritional eating.  One needs a quiet area to enjoy a meal. Dining rooms with a quiet zone can accomplish this.  Also, the WELL standard encourages well-equipped break areas for people who want to bring food from home. Refrigeration, sinks, microwave oven, dish cleaning, and dishware storage areas are important to include in the WELL break room design.

Strategies Work WELL

Bottom line, nutritious eating equals a healthier lifestyle.  An environment where nutritious and yummy dining is the standard means a win for everyone!

By:  Kip Serfozo, FCSI, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP | Director of Design

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