Who can say no to free food?
Hardly anyone, apparently.
According to a new study conducted by researchers in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the food people are eating at work amounts to nearly 1,300 calories a week—70% of which is coming from free food.
The study used data from a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, which looked at purchases made by 5,000 employees from vending machines or cafeterias, as well as food given for free in the workplace.
The study found that not only do these calories add up, but also the source is rarely healthy. Most of the food provided to employees are high in salt and refined grains, but low in whole grains and fruit. Commonly consumed foods and drink included sodas, sandwiches, cookies, and brownies, many of which are high in added sugar.
Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist at the CDC, explained that “while work foods aren’t really necessarily a huge source of calories overall in people’s diets, I think they are still a significant source.”
“If you look at the quality of the foods people got, it definitely did not necessarily adhere to the dietary guidelines very closely,” he continued.
To change employees’ habits, Onufrak suggests not only offering healthier foods, but also “promote them, make them attractive, delicious, priced competitively with less healthy foods, highlight them on menus, and put them in a prominent place.”
Until your workplace starts offering carrot sticks during meetings, then, it would be best to stay away from your colleague’s birthday cake.