Creative Commons photo by Adam Wyles is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Turns out, those handfuls of trail mix between meetings do add up

Marie Salcido  – June 14, 2018

Healthy eating and self-control is easy enough to practice at home, where stocking your pantry and cooking your own meals is a given. But at the office, when someone’s birthday always seems to warrant doughnuts, lunch meetings come with pizza bribes, and free snacks keep everyone incentivized, it gets a little tougher to stay on track. Trust us, if you saw the tempting dishes coming out of the Sunset Test Kitchen on the regs, you’d understand. (We like to call it “research.”)

As it turns out, those work perks can come at an extra cost to our waistlines. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed a survey of over 5,000 employees regarding the free office snack, vending machine, and cafeteria choices they made. The results? Most of the food we reach for at work tends to contain high amounts of sodium, solid fats, added sugar, or refined grains. In other words, most office snacks aren’t packed with nutritional powerhouses like fruits, veggies, and protein to give our bodies the boosts they need.

Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity for the CDC, says they believe this to be the first nationwide study dedicated to the way we eat at the office.

“Our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” Onufrak said in a statement.

Especially in the start-up world, catered meals and provided snacks are becoming more and more standard in the roster of workplace perks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent survey on food purchases and acquisitions in American households also found that employees who got food at work added an extra 1,300 calories on average to their weekly intake, mostly derived from free snacks.

Researchers believe the findings could motivate employers to offer healthier options at work gatherings and in office common spaces, or to utilize workplace wellness programs to promote healthy choices.

“We hope that the results of our research will help increase healthy food options at worksites in the U.S.,” said Onufrak, who presented the study’s findings at American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting in Boston last weekend.