For many of us, it’s really hard to pass up the sweet pastries at meetings, the tasty doughnuts in the break time, and a delicious birthday cake for a co-worker. According to the latest research presented at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting on Monday, workplaces in America offer their employees with food with high in refined grains and salt and low in fruits and whole grains.
Researchers from the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the study, the researchers examined over 5,000 employees across America. The researchers looked at the food or beverages bought from cafeterias and vending machines at work, they also analyzed the free food in the common areas.
The researchers found that some of the most common food and beverages at the workplaces across the United States are regular soft drinks and coffee which contains sugar in a large amount. Stephen Onufrak, who is an epidemiologist at the CDC, said that water, diet drinks, tea, sandwiches, cookies, and brownies are also a part of this list.
Onufrak said, “We have salad, French fries, and pizza … among that list, there weren’t a lot of nutrient-dense foods.”
Around a quarter of the people who participated in the study consumed around 1,300 calories per week. The study found that almost 70 percent of those calories came from the free food provided in common areas, during work-related social events or meetings, the researchers analyzed that data from a household survey of food bought and acquisitions.
The results of the study were presented at an annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston.
Angela Amico, who is a policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and has no contribution in the study, said, “Unfortunately, the diets of Americans, in general, is not really consistent with the recommendations from the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We’re eating more meat than recommended, more refined grains.”
Amico continued, “Americans are not consuming enough fruits, vegetables, and dairy and it can be challenging to meet those guidelines when you have a food environment that doesn’t support it.”
Employees are forced to eat unhealthy foods when they spend more than half of their working hours at their workplace, which quickly adds up the empty calories, said Amico.
Onufrak said, “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,” adding, “If you look at the quality of the foods people got, it definitely did not necessarily adhere to the dietary guidelines very closely.”
The study authors suggested one solution to this problem: Employers should come forward to promote “worksite wellness” programs in order to encourage healthy eating at workplaces by including food options that follow federal recommendations in cafeterias and vending machines at the workplaces.
Onufrak said, “Along with just offering those foods, they can promote them, make them attractive, delicious, priced competitively with less healthy foods, highlight them on menus, and put them in a prominent place.”