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  • Queen of All Nuts: An Interview with Ranja Vardali

    About a decade ago, private trainer and health enthusiast Ranja Vardali decided to take her passion to the next level and went on to single-handedly launch This is Nuts, a company dedicated to promoting a healthier, more natural lifestyle through better snack and food alternatives.

    With International Women’s Day coming up, we wanted to give insights into the career of a woman in charge leading a small company through a tough pandemic, and how she’s putting This is Nuts in the midst of the fight for gender equality.

    On March 8, this year, just like every year, it’s International Women’s Day. What is your message to girls and women across the world?

    When it comes to Sweden and the developed world today, equality exists in the legal or theoretical sense. Therefore it’s no longer about trying to convince society that women can or should be able to do the things men have done in the past, it’s now time to highlight what women have achieved and the advantages of having women in the world.

    While Sweden does have less gender stigmas and is more progressive in terms of gender equality compared with other countries, would you say that you faced challenges starting a business that you don’t think a man wouldn’t have faced?

    Personally I have always been somewhat self-secure and confident, and have always considered my womanhood as a pro rather than a con. So this was nothing I had thought about before, but definitely something I felt and experienced along the way.

    When it comes to my own experience, men have usually been more open to listen and try to “play nice” with me, while women have been more easily critical. This could’ve been because the women saw me as an equal which made it easier for them to turn me down, while the men had a sense of patronage.

    To quit your job and work on starting your own business is scary and challenging to anyone, but did you ever feel that it was scarier or believed that it would be more challenging because you are a woman?

    Not because I am a woman, but because I had learnt to be insecure as a woman. That year I started This is Nuts and I was exploring the world of entrepreneurship, it was all men. It was only men who were entrepreneurs and were launching startups, and there was I, just a girl trying to compete with all of these successful men. So in a sense, I was pre-programed to believe that it would be more challenging.

    Before starting This is Nuts, did you ever have a male superior and how does that experience affect your leadership approach today?

    I actually had a woman superior, and it was awful, honestly. Before studying I was employed as a second receptionist at this high-end sports facility, and we came along quite well in the beginning. However things got more competitive, and in some places even vindictive. This might have stemmed from jealousy that evolved once private life became part of work life. Things became so bad that I even got fired.

    That experience taught me that gender doesn’t really matter in leadership, but rather personality and professionality. While men easily develop a superiority complex over women, women might see other women as competitors, even beyond just work. In conclusion, the workplace is neither a place to get personal, nor a place for competition, it should be a place of unity and team effort.

    Has being a woman in charge ever put you in a situation where you had to defend or prove yourself in a way you don’t believe that a man would’ve had to?

    I haven’t had to prove myself per se, but I have definitely been objectified, countless times. Never looked down on, but objectified.

    I overcame this by taking it back and owning it. If a man wants to get flirty because I’m a woman, I use it to my advantage, and at my convenience. I employed it to get what I want, and never gave them what they wanted.

    As it happens to be today, you are the only woman at This is Nuts. Being in charge of a team of men, how would you describe your relationship with your coworkers?

    It’s actually quite well. It’s easy, honest and very straightforward, exactly the way I would want it to be.

    How has the experience of creating your own startup reinforced your femininity and sense of womanhood?

    I have never really been the outspoken feminist or involved in women’s rights, but my experience has without a doubt reinforced my confidence in myself. Today I don’t see myself capable of anything less than that a man is capable of in any way. And it’s not just something I believe in, but it’s also something I have proved, both to myself, to women, and to men by challenging the male-dominant industry and achieving.

    All of those programmed ideas and social constructs about gender capabilities are today destroyed and nonexistent, and that has made me stronger as a woman and helped embrace my womanhood and femininity even more.

    Let’s get into the biological aspect, let’s not pretend that hormones, PMS and period cramps don’t exist. How do you deal with the load and stress of managing a company at times when your body is not cooperating?

    Good questions, and it’s important to note that the effects of the menstrual cycle differs from woman to woman, and there is therefore no universal truth to it.

    In my case however, it isn’t my body that’s not cooperating but rather my mind; that starts wanting things to have been done already yesterday. And even though my coworkers are understanding when they find me in such situations, I like to take a moment of self-reflection to clear my mind and try to focus. But when that doesn’t work and I feel like I can’t be constructive, I avoid being destructive by trusting everyone to handle their stuff on their own, and either work in self-isolation or cut the day short.

    Gender inequality in management remains a controversial topic globally, how much do you believe has been accomplished so far?

    It’s really hard to say, but for sure not enough, especially when you think about it in a global context. In some places of the world, like here in Europe, women have come far over the last decades; but the fight is far from over, and it still needs to pick up speed and progress in parts of the world that are still behind on this.

    What do you believe still needs to be achieved and what approach do you support/suggest to tackle this?

    If you look at Sweden, and even some EU countries, women do have better opportunities and are found in positions of leadership and power; however, this has created a huge division and women and men are today further apart than ever. Things are evolving from an equality struggle to a power struggle, and we should be cautious. We should work towards creating social balance and understanding, which can be done by bringing women and men together through dialogue, by listening and trying to understand one another.

    We should refrain from attacking or taking advantage of certain gender vulnerabilities, whether in women or men, whether social or biological. In the end, it’s about equality and not about dominance.

    Last year the unimaginable happened, the world was struck by a catastrophic pandemic, economies crashed, businesses shut down, and there was a state of mass hysteria. Since women have always been the most vulnerable part of the workforce, how do you believe the covid-19 pandemic has affected the careers of women?

    That is a big question, but let me try to answer it from one small angle. When schools shut down and children had to stay home, it became evident that there is a social understanding or expectation that it’s a woman’s role and responsibility to leave her job or career to become a housewife or caretaker. This proves just how vulnerable women’s careers are and that equality does not exist under all circumstances, at least socially.

    It’s only natural that you work towards making your company a global leader in the healthier snacks industry, but what role do you want it to play in the fight for gender equality?

    Most global companies and brands are founded or managed by men, so it would be both inspiring and empowering were we to become a women-led global brand.

    Ranja Maria Vardali, known at This is Nuts as the Queen of All Nuts (an internal office joke referring to the coworkers as the nuts), it has been a very insightful interview. Our last question is what is the next big step for This is Nuts?

    Next up are more innovative, healthy, and super tasty products; we are working on becoming a more sustainable business, both in how we operate and with the products we sell; and we are also going to become available in more outlets across the world.

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  • Healthy Snacks Can Boost Productivity & Concentration

    Healthy Snacks Can Boost Productivity & Concentration

    Studies have proven that some healthy snacks are more than just less sugary treats, but rather brain foods that can help boost productivity and concentration at work.

    Did you know that it takes just over 20 minutes to regain your concentration once you lose it? It’s one of the biggest problems people face in the workplace today, and even more so when working from home (which many of us are doing today). You would be in the zone, finishing off work like a dance, and all of a sudden you get a text or come across a trendy video and it’s gone. You lose concentration, and with it goes your productivity.

    As connected as we are today it might be hard to get rid of distractions, especially if your job demands that you sit in front of a computer or a smartphone. You can however help boost your concentration and maximize productivity with something as simple as a healthy snack.

    When most people think healthy snacks, they think of something that is tasty, bite size, and doesn’t contain much added sugar, fats or sodium, and is low in calories. Well that is generally true. But besides not containing the bad stuff found in unhealthy snacks, healthy snacks, if chosen correctly, could have tons of benefits that make you want them within reach all the time.

    Remember how the sentence before said “if chosen correctly”? That is because while there are many foods that can help with concentration, there are two “snacks” that stand out; nuts and dark chocolate.

    If you start keeping nuts or nut-based snacks close by while you’re working, you will notice a huge change for the better. Nuts are packed with protein, fiber and good fats, which are essential for both body and mind, as well as a high content of antioxidants, vitamin E and amino acids, all of which are known to enhance brain performance.

    When it comes to dark chocolate, a 2018 study at Loma Linda University in California found that chocolate with high concentration of cacao can have a huge impact on “cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.” It is therefore smart to replace the sugar-packed chocolate bar with some rich dark chocolate.

    So if the secret to productivity and concentration is in what you’re snacking on, the solution is simple; just fill that office drawer with some healthy snacks. And if you end up finding healthy snacks that are made from both nuts and dark chocolate, then you’d have hit the jackpot (or just found your way to the This is Nuts website). Enjoy and be productive!

     

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  • Nuts are the summer diet you want

    Nuts are the summer diet you want

    Since every season has it’s eating rituals, we’re gonna tell you how nuts can change your summer diet forever.

    Hot drinks and soups are popular during winter, seasonal greens are eaten during spring and autumn has it’s cozy treats, but summer foods are without a doubt the best. During the sunny season many of us stop thinking of what we’re eating and start to indulge in everything tasty. This may be because it’s too late to work on your summer body (summer is here and it is what it is), or we just simply want to enjoy it to the max in every way possible. However, as well as always preach, tasty foods don't have to be unhealthy, a bit of nuts in your summer diet can be both healthy and delicious.

    While different continents eat them differently, nuts are popular foods all over the world. Having been part of the human diet for more than 11,000 years, they are among the oldest sources of nutrition known to man, and for good reason. Kernels found inside fruits contain high amounts of unsaturated fats (the good kind), as well as fibers and protein, making them tiny bundles of superfoods. They are also generally rich in vitamins such as folic acid, niacin and vitamins E and B6, as well as minerals like magnesium, copper, potassium, selenium, zinc and phosphorus.

    In practice, a fist full of nuts a day can drastically improve your health and provide you with your complete nutritional needs for the coming spin along the planet’s axis. You could of course snack on them, which is one of my favorite ways to eat nuts, but there are more creative (and tasty) ways to include them in your summer diet.

    On hot summer days you usually crave something cool or cold to help you cope with the heat. During such days you can sprinkle a mixture of chopped nuts on your yoghurt and have a deliciously crunchy breakfast or healthy light lunch. Another way to cool down is to drink cold drinks, and many of them become a bit tastier (and way more fun) if you add whole pine nuts or almonds, such are rosewater or lemonade.

    Salads are also popular summer foods, and we love them because they are just as nutritious as they are tasty and colorful. You can include nuts in nearly every type of salad, especially if they contain any type of cheese. When that is the case, we recommend crushed walnuts, cashews and/or pine nuts.

    And of course, we won’t leave out the grill. One of the most popular summer pastime activities is barbecuing, and nuts fit in on the barbecue table well too. Nuts can be blended into many sauces and marinades, crushed and used for seasoning (try crushed cashews with chicken), as well as in salads, snacks, and in drinks as mentioned above.

    Overall, summer diet only gets better once you toss in a handful of nuts. Don’t be afraid of experimenting and testing out what nut fits into what, the worst thing that could happen is that you get a crunchy, healthy food to snack on.

    *All photos are from our upcoming cookbook that includes recipes of healthy and tasty dishes and treats made with nuts.
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