Workplace food is making us unhealthy

Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Workplace food is making us unhealthy

Birthday celebrations, charity fundraisers and leftover treats make the workplace a minefield for unhealthy food, contributing up to 1300 calories to a person’s weekly food intake, according to new research.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysed the eating habits of 5222 workers across the US over seven days. Using data from the US Department of Agriculture Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey (FoodAPS), the researchers focused on the food and beverages purchased from vending machines or cafeterias, and the free food in common areas.

They found that the workplace encourages unhealthy eating as food tended to be high in sodium, refined grains and empty calories, and low in whole grains and fruit. Nearly 25% of study participants obtained food from work at least once a week, which added up to 1300 average weekly calories. More than 70% of these were from free food, suggesting that employees are more likely to indulge simply because they can.

The researchers said employers should take action and encourage healthier food choices in the workplace as it would ultimately benefit the company. They suggested employers should offer cafeteria and vending machine food that followed food service guidelines, and implement worksite wellness programs to help promote healthy food options.

Stephen Onufrak, epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, said these programs “have the potential to reach millions of working Americans and have been shown to be effective at changing health behaviours among employees, reducing employee absenteeism and reducing healthcare costs”.

“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.”

The results were presented at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting during Nutrition 2018.

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