Whether it’s bagels at an early morning meeting or a cake to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, the food and calories we consume at the office truly adds up, a new study finds. And most of it has little nutritional value.
Those who eat food offered at work rack up an average of 1,300 calories, according to an analysis conducted by researchers in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study looked at purchases made by 5,000 employees from vending machines and cafeterias as well as any food that was offered for free. Most of the food people ate were high in added sugars and solid fats. People often drank sodas and ate cookies and brownies.
One reason people may be indulging in so many poor food choices is that 70 percent of the food eaten in the study was obtained for free.
“Our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,”said Stephen Onufrak, epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers said employers could help their employees eat better at work by using worksite wellness programs to promote healthy options that are also appealing. Employers could also ensure that foods in cafeterias or vending machines follow food service guidelines, which translate the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans into practical recommendations.
“Since we found that a lot of the foods obtained by employees were free, employers may also want to consider healthy meeting policies to encourage healthy food options at meetings and social events,” Onufrak said.
The researchers are now conducting a similar research study using another dataset to examine foods specifically purchased from vending machines and cafeterias in the workplace.
“Worksite wellness programs have the potential to reach millions of working Americans and have been shown to be effective at changing health behaviors among employees, reducing employee absenteeism and reducing health care costs,” said Onufrak. “We hope that the results of our research will help increase healthy food options at worksites in the US.”
Source: American Society for Nutrition news release
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