Apparently a fair number of people take a lot of %#$% at work and eat it too.
Yesterday at the Nutrition 2018 meeting in Boston, Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), presented what he described in a press release as “the first national study to look at the food people get at work.” Nutrition 2018 is the American Society of Nutrition’s annual meeting. Onufrak also indicated that “our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” This is a polite way of saying nutritionally some of it may be %#$%.
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.
During the week, 8% of respondents had purchased food or beverages at work during the week, and 17% had acquired it for free. Those of you skilled in the art of acquiring food for free know that potential sources include the communal coffee machine, catering for meetings, birthdays and other celebrations, and that person or persons in the office for whom baking is a hobby or emotional outlet.
Free food may sound good but it accounted for 71% of all of the calories acquired at work. (Those who got food or beverages at work, got an average of 1277 calories from work). 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.
Thus, with all the pizzas and pies around, what this study suggest is that you may want to shut your pie (you know what) at work. There are a lot of distractions around you such as the conversations that you are having, the other people that are walking around, the cat videos on your computer screen, and oh, of course, the work that you have to do. You may not realize or be keeping track of the extra calories, salt, fat, sugar, and other bad stuff that is going into your mouth.
Remember, you spend a lot of your waking hours (and in some cases sleeping hours) at work. Thus, workplace food can really affect your diet. What, then, do you do besides convincing the baker in your office to find a different emotional outlet? Here are some possibilities:
Don’t talk to or interact with anyone: You can reduce your chances of getting free food by hissing at everyone when they see you. Of course, this could have other negative consequences.
Eat selectively: When food comes around, pay attention to its nutritional content.
Don’t position yourself close to food: If your desk is in the office kitchen, then that not only is a bit odd (assuming that you don’t do kitchen-related work) but also makes you more likely to eat unconsciously.
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 “made the workplace grapes again instead of cakes the workplace again.” But in the long run people may thank you.
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.
Eat when you are not at work: Don’t regularly rely on free food for your meals.
Pack and bring your food: This requires some time, planning, and organization. That’s why fast food is called fast food. One possibility is to form a “foodpool” with some co-workers and take turns preparing food for each other. Just make sure that your “foodpool” doesn’t have more than a hundred people because it may be overwhelming when it is your day to bring the food.
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 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.
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