Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Free Food At The Workplace Could Promote Unhealthy Eating Habits, Study Finds

Free Food At The Workplace Could Promote Unhealthy Eating Habits, Study Finds

"We're eating more meat than recommended, more refined grains", said Angela Amico, a policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest who was not involved with the study.

Results were presented at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting in Boston. Whether it's your co-workers bringing in bagels on Fridays, donuts for someone's birthday, or just a vending machine craving in the afternoon - food is somehow inescapable at the office.

It's not a secret that the frosted chocolate cake left in the office break room is not the most nutritious snack, but a new study shows that those extra calories from free office food might be adding up to quite a lot.

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The food people get at work contributes to unhealthy eating as it tends to contain high amounts of sodium and refined grains, and very little whole grains and fruit, a United States study has found.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a study, presented at a American Society for Nutrition meeting, to determine how many unhealthy foods employees consume while on the job. It found that nearly a quarter of the study participants had food from work at least once a week and that the average weekly calories obtained were almost 1,300. Free food was the main reason of why people ate at work with 17 percent of the votes, versus those who purchased food at work, which was only 8 percent.

Furthermore, not only were the foods high in calories, they also contained added sugars and high amounts of sodium.

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To do so, they used data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey, a national questionnaire on food purchases and acquisitions during a seven-day period. Commonly consumed foods and drink included sodas, sandwiches, cookies, and brownies, many of which are high in added sugar.

The study also found that free food was the most common source of food for people at work. Vending machines could swap their cheese-flavored corn chips, at 250 calories with little nutritional value, for sunflower seeds that include healthy fats and fiber, at 160 calories.

Employers were encouraged to facilitate change by introducing healthy food options at meetings and social events and ensuring cafeteria food and vending machines follow food service guidelines. The reason why this food is typically unhealthy is quite straightforward: employers want to give employees tasty food, often sweet.

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"Our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the dietary guidelines", said Stephen Onufrak to IndiaTv. "Providing delicious, appealing, healthy food can also help to create a culture of health at a workplace".

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