Food at work is usually unhealthy, contributes to bad habits
A new study has found that the foods commonly available in workplaces across the United States contain high amounts of sodium and low amounts of grains and fruit. The findings suggest that workplaces are contributing to the national issue of bad eating habits.
Stephen Onufrak ia an epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“To our knowledge, this is the first national study to look at the food people get at work,” said Onufrak. “Our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
The study was focused on data from the US Department of Agriculture Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey (FoodAPS), involving more than 5,000 American employees.
The researchers analyzed the food and beverages available in workplace vending machines, cafeterias, in common areas, and at meetings or work-related social events.
Almost 25 percent of study participants reported eating food from work at least once a week, and the average weekly calories obtained from these foods was around 1,300. The food tended to be high in empty calories from solid fats or added sugars. Overall, more than 70 percent of the empty calories were from food that was made available by employers for free.
According to the researchers, employers could help their employees eat better at work by using worksite wellness programs to promote healthy options that are also appealing. In addition, employers could regulate foods in cafeterias or vending machines, supplying only those that follow nutritional guidelines.
“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,” said Onufrak.
The researchers are currently examining the specific foods commonly 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.”
The preliminary findings, which have not yet undergone the peer-review process, will be presented by Onufrak at Nutrition 2018, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.