Here at Johnson & Johnson, we don’t just “talk the talk,” but we also “walk the walk” when it comes to health and fitness, especially with our employees. We’re kicking off the New Year with a two-part series on how J&J helps its employees engage in healthy behavior at our Headquarters offices in New Brunswick, NJ. First, we’ll talk food and how our cafeterias and wellness employees make it easy for employees to eat healthy at work. Second, we’ll check out the employee fitness centers to see how our wellness professionals keep employees moving throughout the day. So, no matter what resolutions you set for yourself, we hope this series inspires you to make small steps toward a healthier New Year.
Part I: Cafeteria/Nutrition
First, I sat down with the woman behind it all – Head Executive Chef at Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters in New Brunswick, Laura Colletti, to talk about what goes into creating the menus for one of the largest J&J cafeterias in the world.
Johnson & Johnson is known as a company that has a health and wellness-centered culture. How does that translate when you create the menus?
I’ve been the chef at J&J now for ten years, and you wouldn’t believe the evolution our menus have undergone in the past decade. For example, we’ve swapped out white rice and starches for quinoa, bulgur, lentils, beans and wild rice. Also, I work closely with our Wellness Team to create menus with nutritionally dense foods, including whole grains, lean proteins, and lots of vegetables. I also try to keep it as seasonal and local as possible, buying fresh produce from our local farmer’s market and from the on-site organic employee garden. Each month, we also promote a “super food,” such as a cruciferous veggie like kale, and feature the food in a variety of recipes.
We’ve also made a move toward smaller portions and fewer desserts. If we offer something sweet, we try to make it a low-fat oatmeal cookie or healthy versions of a granola bar (recipe included at end of article). When employees are at the cash register, they can grab pre-portioned pack of nuts, trail mix, or fruits to snack on later in the day. Recently, we just introduced a gluten-free section so those with gluten allergies can have something sweet or salty to snack on.
What are some healthy options available in the cafeteria?
We paired up with the magazine, Eating Well, and feature one of their recipes daily at the hot entrée station – an example meal would be poached cod with sautéed zucchini and sweet potatoes. There’s also a robust salad bar with lots of healthy toppings and dressings to choose from. The entrée station always has a protein with a fish or vegetarian option. We also have a deli station, where we’ll feature something like tuna salad on a sandwich thin or wrap, instead of white bread or baguettes.
You mentioned you use produce from the employee garden. Tell me more about what is grown:
The employee garden is run by the J&J Green Team, and the cafeteria owns eight plots in the garden. We grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, to name just a few. We use this produce in the summer menus and in the salad bar. One of our most popular items made from the garden is the fresh basil pesto. Everyone really loves that one!
I know the cafeteria often does “themed” or seasonal menus, what are some examples?
Yes, we’ve done a lot with Black History month, Veteran’s Day, and Women’s History month. We also include diversity-themed menus such as Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian foods. A popular theme we’ve done in the past is “Great Chefs,” featuring recipes from Julia Child, Giada De Laurentiis, and Ina Garten. We try to keep it fresh and fun by rotating new recipes in often.
Is there a J&J “favorite” food or meal that you serve?
By far our most popular meal is Thanksgiving dinner – complete with the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce. I guess having it once a year isn’t quite enough! The culinary theatre is also a popular option, where employees can create their own salad, pasta, rice or noodle bowls and are sautéed to order.
How do you hope employees feel after eating in the cafeteria?
I hope they feel energized and refreshed to keep going throughout the rest of their day, whether at work or at home with their family. We try to make foods that are appealing, tasteful, and easily accessible to the J&J employee. We want to make it easy to eat healthy, not boring or tasteless.
I hope this blog post has inspired you to go out and make healthy changes in your eating habits, especially during the workday. Even if you don’t have access to a cafeteria in your workplace, we hope Chef Laura’s tips have inspired you to get in the kitchen and start cooking up a healthy storm! To get you started, below is a popular recipe for our homemade Pumpkin Pecan Bars. Keep these in your office desk drawer for a healthy and satisfying midday snack. Be on the lookout next month for part two of the series when we’ll talk about the employee fitness centers and how we keep it moving here at J&J!
Samantha Gilham is a Graduate Fellow in Corporate Communications at Johnson & Johnson. She works primarily on the social media team, creating content for the various J&J channels. When she isn’t working at J&J or finishing up her Master’s degree in communications at Rutgers University, she can be found training at her local CrossFit gym.