Around a quarter of working adults obtain foods and beverages at the workplace at least once a week. But often the foods are high in calories, added sugars, refined grains, and sodium. A new study finds that offering more healthful meals at work could be a promising opportunity to improve wellness among employees. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Using data collected in 2012-13 from the large, nationally representative Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey (FoodAPS), CDC investigators found that 23.4 percent of the 5,222 study participants obtained food at least once a week at work. The average weekly calories obtained was 1,292, and in general, the foods consumed at work did not align well with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
‘Improving the nutritional quality of foods consumed at work can be a key factor in worksite wellness efforts. A new study suggests that incorporating food service guidelines into wellness programs can help employers offer appealing and healthy choices that give employees a choice’
"Employers can offer appealing and healthy options in cafeterias, vending machines, and at meetings and social events," said lead CDC investigator Stephen J. Onufrak, Ph.D., a researcher with CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Atlanta, GA, USA. "One way to do this is by incorporating food service guidelines and healthy meeting policies into worksite wellness efforts."
Improving the nutritional quality of foods consumed at work can be a crucial component in worksite wellness efforts. Obesity and low dietary quality are important risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. These conditions represent seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US and treating them accounts for 84 percent of healthcare costs. In 2010, nearly three in 10 employed adults had obesity. Employed adults with obesity reported lower consumption of fruits and vegetables and less frequent leisure-time physical activity than normal-weight adults.
With about 150 million working adults in the US, worksite wellness efforts to prevent chronic disease can reach a large portion of the American public. These programs have been shown to be effective at changing health behaviors among employees, reducing employee absenteeism, and reducing healthcare costs.
"Incorporating food service guidelines into wellness programs can help employers offer appealing and healthy options that give employees a choice," suggested Dr. Onufrak.
The foods analyzed in the study were either purchased from worksite vending machines or cafeterias, or obtained for free in common areas, during meetings, or at worksite social events. The study did not include foods that people brought in to work from home for their own consumption or foods obtained at an off-site restaurant or retail outlet during work hours.