Your office is making you fat. The proof is the first national study to look at the food people eat at work.
Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), presented the Nutrition 2018 meeting in Boston. Onufrak indicated that “our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” Or in real-world words, people are eating pretty horrible at work (not just away from work)!
For the study, Onufrak and his colleagues analyzed data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey (FoodAPS), administered to a nationally representative sample of American households. The data included what food and beverages 5,222 employed adults had indicated they had purchased and “acquired” for free at work over a 7-day period.
Here’s how the study went.
During the week, 8% of respondents had purchased food or beverages at work during the week, and 17% had acquired it for free. The sources of potential extra food in most workplace environments are well known to most, they include the catering for meetings, birthdays and celebrations, that person in the office that loves to bake and always brings sweets, or the guy or gal who always has a jar of candy on their desk. Or the nice person who believes they are making everyone’s day brighter by bringing that box of donuts, but in reality, they want to kill you! Ok. Maybe not that. That’s most likely an exaggeration. Or maybe not, I don’t know where you work!
Free food sounds great but it accounted for 71% of all of the calories acquired at work.
What’s even more shocking, is that those who got food or beverages at work got an average of 1277 extra calories a day. Also, food from work, whether purchased or obtained for free, tended to be “high in empty calories, sodium, and refined grains and low in whole grains and fruit.” And surprise! The leading foods were “pizza, soft drinks, cookies/brownies, cakes and pies, and candy.” Not exactly broccoli florets and kale.
Free doughnuts at work can be tempting, but…
With all the pizzas flying around work, what this study suggests is that you may want to shut your pizza hole while at the office! There are a lot of distractions around you and you may not realize all of the extra calories, salt, bad fats, sugar, and other bad stuff that is going into your mouth that adds up fast towards adipose tissue (for those of you who don’t know what that is – it’s the scientific word for fat).
Workplace food can really affect your diet.
What, then, do you do besides convince the baker in your office to find a different emotional outlet? Here are some possibilities:
Don’t talk to or interact with anyone ever:
You can reduce your chances of getting free food by hissing like an angry cat at everyone when they see you. Of course, this is probably not the best choice for keeping your job. Do what you must!
When food comes around, pay attention to its nutritional content.
Bring fruits for desserts. Serve veggies with hummus (instead of ranch dip). Offer infused water in place of sugary drinks and sodas. Cut bagels into quarters for smaller portions.
Don’t position yourself too close to any food:
Obvious. If your desk is next to the refrigerator, maybe you should seek help?
Convince your workplace to bring or offer healthier options:
It may not seem appealing to be known as “that kale guy who took our pizza away” or the woman who “brought salad instead of cookies to the workplace again.” But in the long run, people may thank you! Stand up and be a leader for once! Do what’s good for everyone – not bad.
Be careful about drinking at work:
Not just drinking alcohol but anything sugar-sweetened. Beverages can be a prominent source of empty calories and sugar. Also, drinking alcohol at work might get you fired (but that depends on where you work I guess).
Don’t ever rely on free food for your meals.
Unless you have no money.
Pack and bring your food.
This requires some time, planning, and organization. It will save you money from eating fast food and unhealthy food in other restaurants. To do this, just try to remember how you’ve put on the pounds since you started working there. That should give you some motivation!
Form a Lunch Tribe
Take turns with some of your co-workers preparing food for each other or making it pot luck where everyone makes one element of the lunch and brings it to work to share.
Scout out places around the workplace that serve healthy food:
This could also get you to walk around more.
Finally, keep in mind, you often get what you pay for nutritionally.
Workplaces may try to save money by getting or offering cheaper and more convenient foods and beverages, which tend to be highly processed and higher in salt, sugar, fat, and artificial ingredients. You may still be able to find healthy food at work but may have to work at it. It’s really worth it.
If you find that you don’t really know what to eat, how to prepare it, and you can’t seem to be successful on your own, we are always here to coach you through it all.