None of my three children ever want to go grocery shopping unless we're headed to Costco during "free sample" hours. They'll happily push that heavy cart around in exchange for a bit of buttered toast and a taste of taquitos straight from the toaster oven. It reminds me of college when we knew that the cause with the most support would be the cause that advertised free pizza.

When we share food, we're tapping into ancient human rituals. When we offer food, we encourage feelings of safety and belonging. This is so universal and so primal that in many cultures, it's considered rude not to offer guests a refreshment when they come to your house.  

Google knows this. The company serves meals and has 1,300 micro kitchens in their Mountain View location alone, supported by a team of chefs, nutritionists, and others working to keep Googlers happy --and productive.

As one Glassdoor review claimed, "The free snacks are pretty nice. They keep me full and focused."

It should be no surprise, then, to learn that offering snacks at a meeting can convey that same sense of caring. A few well-chosen tidbits can also help people maintain energy and focus in longer meetings. 

That said, not all snacks work well. While Amazon may be famous for their two-pizza rule (which states that no meeting should include more people than you could feed with two large pizzas), high-fat, sugary, and high-carb snacks aren't a great choice.

With more people trying to eat healthfully, these snacks force them to choose between giving in to the deliciousness and peer pressure (then feeling guilty later about their diet) or abstaining (and spending the meeting trying to convince themselves the diet is worth it.)

You should also avoid anything too messy, too crunchy loud, or too smelly. Any snack that will make it hard to focus on the conversation should stay in the break room.

Here are five great choices for healthy snacks that attendees can quietly eat with their fingers. Each of these also packs mood and health-boosting benefits.

Nuts

A few salted nuts go a long way. They're fat and protein-dense, which helps stave off rumbling tummies. A handful of nuts can satisfy some of the same cravings inspired by pizza without leaving you all greasy and groggy twenty minutes later.

Squeaky Clean Quiet Fruit

Fresh fruit tastes sweet, feels refreshing, and provides just the right kind of sugar kick. Right now, we have a bumper blueberry crop in our area, which is perfect. Berries, bananas, and grapes are all fruits you can eat quietly without dribbling all over the place. Apples, by contrast, crunch too much, and melons are a mess. 

Blanched Veggies

We all know we should eat more vegetables. We also know that sitting next to someone crunching carrots throughout a meeting is a special kind of hell.

Blanching to the rescue! If you've never enjoyed a tray of veggies lightly blanched in boiling salt water, you're in for a treat. This quick-cooking process breaks down the crisp noisy cells in the veggies, rendering them acoustically acceptable. It also locks in vitamins, increases sweetness, and brightens the color, making for an extra gorgeous tray. Add a bit of hummus or dip and you'll be surprised how many veggies your formerly pizza-guzzling colleagues can put away. 

It does take a bit of extra work to blanch veggies, which is where that "caring for other people" thing really comes into play. 

Coffee, Tea, and Super Cold Water

Coffee and tea are office-stimulant staples. If you're meeting early in the morning or directly after lunch, bringing a tray of coffee and tea to the meeting is a nice touch.

Ice cold water is also a stimulant. Did you know that drinking very cold water has a thermogenic effect, forcing the body to burn calories to warm you up? It's a tiny effect, but every bit helps because you should also serve...

Dark Chocolate

Of course. Always. Because dark chocolate is the best. Study after study shows that dark chocolate can improve mood and a number of health markers. 

I can't say for sure that this isn't one of those conspiracy of angels things, where researchers secretly agree to publish study results that make people happy regardless of what they actually find in the lab. I can say for sure that dark chocolate in the conference room definitely makes me and many other people feel cared for. 

In our office, meetings that require deep thinking also require coffee and dark chocolate sea salt almonds. And yes, sometimes, pizza, because caring for each other means we get to decide together what will best help us have a happy and productive meeting.

Published on: Aug 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.