Researchers with the CDC recently conducted a study that found free workplace food may be a major contributor to unhealthy diets. The researchers looked at 5,222 volunteers who work in various places across the United States, finding that food provided at work is often unhealthy and contain things like high sodium levels. The CDC indicates this may be the first national study of its kind.
Snacks in the workplace may be provided by coworkers who bring the items into the office, but is often provided by the company itself. These snacks are often free as a perk for employees, but free snack food choices by companies are often unhealthy, involving ingredients like refined grains and sugar, high amounts of salt, and processed ingredients.
While a nice gesture on the part of companies that provide it, the study warns that workplace snacks may be significantly contributing to unhealthy diets among Americans. Almost a quarter of study volunteers reported getting food from their workplace at least one time per week, and the weekly average calorie load from work was almost 1,300.
According to the study, most of the calories consumed at work were so-called “empty” calories — that is, things like added sugars and fats. Free food in particular contributed to this workplace eating, covering more than 70-percent of the calories workers consumed while at the office. Other calories came from things like cafeteria meals and items bought from a vending machine.
As many companies adopt healthier workplace policies and programs, researchers encourage them to add healthier snacks and cafeteria meals to the list. Whole fruits, for example, are better than fruit snacks, which are processed and often contain added, refined sugar. As a benefit to the company, healthier employees take less time off and employers may experience decreased healthcare costs.