Health: Now it’s about the sausage – can the canteen educate us?

Can the employer inform us at lunch? A conversation with canteen expert Holger Pfefferle. The plus: a ranking of health-conscious companies.

Mr. Pfefferle, VW removed currywurst from a canteen menu? To the right?
I find that questionable to say the least. This does not correspond to the principles of the German Nutrition Society. We are against decreeing exemptions or banning food. Our philosophy is to expand the offer and give more choice.

When people have a choice, they like to eat currywurst. It is one of the most popular canteen dishes.
It’s part of our culture. You have to pay attention to the wishes of the canteen customers. People only come if they like it. That’s why I wouldn’t ask if, but rather how to offer currywurst and what alternatives there are.

Belonging to the whole truth: VW has only converted one canteen to vegetarian dishes. A few steps away, everything revolves around the sausage.
You can easily incorporate a currywurst into a good balanced diet. He shouldn’t be there every day. It is less about the individual dish than about the average over the week or the whole month.

Is the currywurst the main issue or the fries with it?
Sure, with red and white fries you’re not far off in terms of nutrition. However, we generally do not exclude breaded or fried foods from our menu recommendations. It depends on the dose. But of course you can prepare a lot with less fat. The sausage also loses fat if you grill it properly. The lion’s share of lunch should consist of plant-based foods such as vegetables, lettuce, legumes, whole-wheat pasta, rice, potatoes, and fruit.

Should health-conscious employers try to educate their employees?
no Catering is part of the company’s health promotion. These are workplace safety, addiction prevention, exercise and stress management, but also nutrition. A good canteen can promote awareness of healthy eating. Employees should be guided, but not manipulated.

How does it actually work?
With a nudge. Experts talk about nudge. You can light the salad bar brighter. Or place fruit instead of chocolate bars in front of checkouts. I know of a company that deliberately reduced the number of fryers when rebuilding the kitchen. When the lines for currywurst with fries get a little longer, fewer people line up.

Isn’t this a permanent conflict of objectives: food must be healthy, but also popular.
I advise companies to first take a fundamental look at the subject. It’s not just about food, it’s also about the environment. What should the canteen be? The company canteen can be a place of communication, social participation and relaxation. I have to create the conditions for this and then develop the corresponding offer. And who said a popular meal can’t be healthy at the same time? Here, chefs can unleash their creativity and combine the two.

Does an attractive employer need a good canteen these days?
An economically healthy company can often be recognized by the company restaurant and the cost of food. Many young specialists today ask their potential employer: What do you offer me? Salary and work-life balance are probably the most important things, but the canteen is also a pull factor for employees.

Hasn’t Corona changed that?
Part-time work and working from home have already increased. It is becoming increasingly rare for people to work eight hours a day, five days a week. The pandemic has reinforced this trend. This has consequences for canteens. Your role changes.

The frequency of going to the canteen decreases and its importance increases. While many are working from home, the few opportunities for personal exchange become even more important. In the first phase of the pandemic, most of them suffered massively from the loss of social contacts at work.

Do you know how the Germans ate in the home office?
There are no studies on this, we can only speculate. Apparently, delivery services have benefited enormously from this. Working from home doesn’t automatically mean you have time to cook when one meeting follows the next. Many people find cooking to be a lot of work. This is where I see an opportunity for company restaurants: for example, by offering the possibility of taking a meal home and then having dinner with the family.

They certify companies under the motto “Job & Fit”. What should they do about it?
A lot! What is important is the quality and quantity of the right food, nutrient-friendly preparation and a low degree of food processing. It is also necessary to communicate with the client about this. It is also important that healthy vegetarian dishes are always offered.

What does that mean?
It shouldn’t just be side dishes that might contain diced bacon. Wonderful main dishes can be created with lentils, chickpeas or soy. But here, too, we take a critical look at highly processed meat substitutes. Something like pea protein or soy burger patties should only be served once a week.

To return to the hit parade of the most popular dishes: in addition to currywurst, there is spaghetti bolognese…
It is an ingenious dish that you can prepare in a sustainable and healthy way without any major problems. I can eat little lean meat and lots of vegetables. It is also possible to replace the mince entirely with soy or red lentils. Thanks to the roasting substances, it is almost impossible to tell the difference. And if I also choose whole grain pasta that doesn’t have to be dark in color, then I’m on the right track.

Breaded fish is also on the menu, often on Fridays.
Due to overfishing, we have become more cautious about fish. Previously, sea fish were called once a week. Today we also accept freshwater fish. Breading is allowed, but not every day. Instead of remoulade, lighter products can be used, such as sour cream with fresh herbs. Potato salad can also be made with vinegar and broth instead of mayonnaise.

And then there’s the pizza, which is often dripping in fat thanks to the salami and cheese.
Even pizza doesn’t have to be a calorie bomb. The dough can be prepared with wholemeal flour. The tomato sauce does not have to come from the bag, but can be made yourself with olive oil and herbs. And when it comes to cheese, it’s also good with cream cheese or feta. And last but not least: it doesn’t always have to be salami. Lean cooked ham is a low-fat alternative, and pizza is a delicious dish even without meat. Raw foods are best served with. The guest decides if she is chosen.

Mr Pfefferle, thank you very much for the interview.
One moment please. I have a request for all the customers of the canteen: thank you for congratulating me! Say: Yesterday’s savoy cabbage was to die for. Then the kitchen team works even harder the next day.

health conscious companies

health conscious companies

health conscious companies

© star

The method: how the ranking was determined


The research partner is the well-known market research company Statista. Over 50,000 employees took part in a survey via the Internet using high-quality online access panels: companies with at least 500 employees in Germany could be rated. Previously, Statista had researched a list of more than 2,600 major employers in 24 industries. Respondents could also name other companies. The brand with which companies appear in public and advertise employees was assessed in each case. Despite great effort and care, the classification does not claim to be complete. The survey took place between June 24 and August 9, 2021.

The companies were assessed on eight dimensions: managerial culture and motivation, working atmosphere, workplace and equipment, work-life balance, workflow, working hours, colleagues, health issues and hygiene concept. Workplace health promotion measures (eg offers for healthy food in the canteen or nutritional advice) were then studied and evaluated. Finally, the participants were able to assess the impact of their working conditions on their health. Additionally, HR departments of high-rated companies received a questionnaire on health-related processes and metrics (e.g. employee participation or classes during working hours). This survey took place between September 23 and November 16, 2021.


The results were converted into a score between zero and ten. If company responses were available, they counted for 30% and employee responses for 70%. Otherwise, only the employee’s score counts. The eight dimensions of health represent 70% and the additional questions on health promotion at work and one’s own health represent 30%. 100 companies above the average are rewarded.


The severe editorial team only works with test partners with a high level of expertise. Statista brings that with it. The independent market research institute works for a large number of clients. However, the neutrality of data collection and analysis is always guaranteed. No companies were able to apply to participate in the study or influence listing. The severe editorial team decided on the questionnaire and the evaluation scheme. Winners have the opportunity to acquire a star seal for their public image. More detailed information on the condition of these seals can be found at

Posted in stern 12/2022

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