Eating at Work is (Probably) Making You Fat, Says New Research

Eating at Work is (Probably) Making You Fat, Says New Research
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Americans are consuming upwards of 1,300 “extra” calories per week in the workplace, says new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers looked at dietary habits of more than 5,000 people and found that food consumed on the job — often food the study subjects didn’t pay for — may be contributing to the nation’s obesity crisis.

“The majority of the calories people got at work, people didn’t pay for — 70 percent of the calories were free,” said study co-author Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These “free” calories came from a number of sources, namely breakroom staples like coffee and tea (sweetened or with cream) and soft drinks, but there were also a number of other foods on the list: sandwiches, cookies, brownies, french fries, pizza, and salad. Pizza contributed the largest percentage of extra calories, followed by sandwiches and soft drinks.

“Since we found that a lot of the foods obtained by employees were free, employers may also want to consider healthy meeting policies to encourage healthy food options at meetings and social events,” said Onufrak.

Subjects in the study filled out surveys about what they ate at work over a seven-day period. The data wasn’t compared with what was consumed at home or elsewhere, but according to Onufrak, in other, similar studies, “a lot of the eating patterns we saw tend to be consistent.”

A growing number of workplace environments now encourage healthier eating habits and even provide wellness support or access to healthier foods in employee cafeterias. But the problem may lie with the “free” factor — an employer comping lunch, a co-worker bringing in leftover birthday cake could be doing a job on your health.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.