What else are we supposed to do at work?

By Mike Pomranz
Updated June 12, 2018
Credit: Photo by Jamie Grill via Getty Images

Did you get any food from work today? Not food you brought yourself, but food specifically provided by your employer or someone at work? Maybe you indulged in an infamous coworker birthday cake? Or maybe you had to work late so your boss ordered in from that sushi place that she loves but you think is overrated?

Whatever the reason, according to new preliminary research presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, a quarter of people surveyed said they acquired food from their workplace at some point during the week. Among this group that was given some grub, the calories they were consuming were far higher than many might think.

“Nearly one in four working adults obtained food at work during the week, and the food and beverages that they got added up to an average of nearly 1,300 calories, more than half the recommended daily calorie intake for the average adult,” lead author Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, told ABC News. “With employees spending eight hours a day on average at their place of employment, a lot of people may not be aware of all of the calories they get from work, especially from foods they get for free.”

Onufrak said that, of the 25 percent that got food from work, 17 percent were people getting free food, potentially adding to the ease with which people were eating more than they thought. “The majority of the calories people got at work, people didn't pay for,” Onufrak explained, “70 percent of the calories were free.” The study—which had 5,222 employees from across the US self-reporting what foods they got from work over a seven-day period—found that the most common candidates consumed based on the number calories were pizza, sandwiches, and sugary soft drinks. Other usual suspects included coffee, tea, cookies, brownies, French fries, salad, water and diet soda.

Overall, Onufrak hopes his findings will encourage companies to focus on employee health and provide something other than empty calories. “Employers can encourage healthier foods at meetings and events, especially when the employer is providing free food to employees,” he said. “Providing delicious, appealing, healthy food can also help to create a culture of health at a workplace.” Though perhaps he might want to hammer this idea home by writing it in pepperonis on a pizza?