Around a quarter of all employed adults buy foods and beverages at work at least once a week, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Far from being a boost to their nutritional intake, foods accessed at work often have detrimental effects on health, with the CDC concluding that they are often high in calories, refined grains, refined sugars, and salt. America is currently facing an obesity epidemic; around 160M are estimated to be overweight or obese, which increases the likelihood of everything from heart disease to Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Clearly, companies wishing to reduce absences, boost employee health and wellness, and build productive and happy teams, need to give due importance to the foods employees can access in the workplace.
Too Many Calories for One Meal
The study collected data from over 5,200 participants, finding that the average weekly calories obtained at work amounted to almost 1,300 for this once-a-week ‘treat’. Considering most employees only consume lunch in their workplace, it is easy to see how 1,300 calories consumed in one sitting can easily push up one’s total caloric intake. High caloric values indicate that the food consumed is high in fat and refined ingredients. Key vitamins and nutrients for optimal health can be found in lower-calorie but more nutritionally packed meals made with lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and healthy Omega-3 essential fats. The researchers stated that employers can and should offer appealing yet healthy options in cafeterias and vending machines, as well as at social events celebrated at work. “One way to do this is by incorporating food service guidelines and healthy meeting policies into worksite wellness efforts,” said researcher Stephen Onufrak.
Nutrition is Just One Piece of the Puzzle
The researchers stated that improving the nutritional quality of foods available at work was just one pillar of a sound corporate health and wellness strategy. Currently, employees who are overweight or obese report lower consumption of fresh produce, but also less physical activity than adults at a healthy weight. Worksite wellness efforts involving gamification to boost motivation, increased opportunities for exercise, and the provision of wearable fitness trackers can help employees make health a greater priority in their day-to-day lives. Companies with a commitment to the health and wellbeing of their employees can also rely on real-time data insights that allow management to form a complete and unified view of their employees’ health.
Work Diets are Mirrored in Daily Life
A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine is food for thought for companies and employees who fail to give nutrition due importance. The study showed that employees who purchased the least healthy food at their workplace were also more likely to have an unhealthy diet outside of work, be overweight or obese, and present risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Indeed, keeping employees healthy is a complex task, since companies must focus on the choices employees make outside work as well as in.
Consuming an unhealthy diet significantly increases the chance of many leading diseases. Companies interested in promoting wellness should ensure that foods offered at work are nutrition-packed yet low in calories, salt, unhealthy fats, sugars, etc. The habits employees develop at work have a direct impact on their choices outside it, and vice-versa. To keep staff happy and healthy, encouraging both a sound diet and an active lifestyle are vital.