You Are What You Eat (In the Workplace)

Offices that provide lunch as a perk might seem like a great place to work, but if you are cautious of what you eat, you may have to seek employment somewhere else.  That’s because a new study from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that many foods available in the workplace are low in nutritional value.  

According to the CDC survey, foods that are most often made available in the workplace come as meals and snacks from either an in-house cafeteria or simple vending machines.  And from these options, workers typically obtain food and beverage at least once every week.  And from these weekly food sources, those who eat at work typically consume nearly 1,300 calories. 

In a paper published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers advise that the leading food types offered in the average workplace are “typically high in solid fat, added sugars, or sodium,” and include popular items like pizza, soft drinks, candy, and baked goods like cookies, pies, and brownies.   

The study is important, of course, because diet-related health conditions are on the rise.  For example, only about 30 percent of employed adults were obese in 2010. By 2016, that number had risen to closer to 31 percent. Financially, the annual national medical cost of obesity is probably somewhere between $150 and $200 billion. 

Of course, obesity alone is not the concern.  A person have extra weight and still be healthy, but obesity tends to be followed or related to other health issues. In fact, obesity and poor nutrition (which are often linked) are two of the major risk factors for chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.  These are among the leading causes of [preventable] death in the United States, accounting for nearly 85 percent of total health care costs in the process. 

As you might expect, the study goes on to advise that simply offering more healthful options at the workplace could provide workers with more promising dietary and wellness outcomes.  Indeed, lead CDC investigator Stephen J. Onfrak PhD comments, “Employers can offer appealing and healthy options in cafeterias, vending machines, and at meetings and social events.” 

The CDC Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity researcher goes on to say, “One way to do this is by incorporating food service guidelines and heathy meeting policies into worksite wellness efforts [which can] give employees a choice.”

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