Candy, cupcakes, and cookies seem to be all around the typical office, so if you are striving to eat healthy, the workplace can be a minefield that makes people fat.
Researchers surveyed more than 5,000 people and found that about 1 in 4 working adults said they got food or beverages from work at least once a week.
Many of those foods were high in calories and contained processed grains, as well as added sugar and salt, according to scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“People should probably be concerned about all the foods they’re getting at work. So many of them are free, but people do not realize that all those free foods do add up to a lot of calories over the week. And, those calories do not necessarily line up well with [healthy] dietary guidelines,” said the study author with the CDC’s nutrition division.
The study reported that the average worker ate about 1,300 calories of foods obtained at the office every week. A formula for getting fat!
Foods consumed at work included those purchased from vending machines or cafeterias, as well as those eaten for free in common areas, meetings, or worksite social events.
Among the Top 10 items obtained at work (free or purchased) were coffee, water, soft drinks, sandwiches, and potato chips, the study found.
The highest calorie items people got at work (free or purchased) included pizza, soft drinks, sandwiches, chips, cookies, brownies, donuts, pastries, and burgers.
“Since so many of these foods were free, workplaces can adopt healthy meeting policies that encourage healthy foods that are more in line with workplace wellness efforts,” the study author said, adding that workplace wellness programs are effective at reducing workplace costs and absenteeism.
Dietitian Samantha Heller said people definitely underestimate the calories they eat at work.
“You do not think much about it if you grab a bag of chips in the break room, but that is 150 hollow calories. And if you do it 3 to 4 days a week for months, those calories really start to add up,” she said.
The office candy dish
“You grab a pre-wrapped chocolate or 2 as you walk by and think nothing of the calories,” Ms. Heller added. “But if you do that a few times every day, slowly those extra calories will put on the pounds.”
“We do not like to turn down free food, but there are many days it’s going to be someone’s work anniversary or birthday. You do not have to eat something to celebrate with them,” Ms. Heller said.
It is easier to forgo office goodies if you are not hungry, she said, noting, “If you are not hungry, you are more in control. If you can, bring healthy food to work with you.”
The study findings were published on 22 January in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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