stop snacking at work

More Guidance: Stop Snacking at Work

It hurts to hear, but it’s guidance that may be part of a well-run workplace wellness program: Stop snacking at work.

At least, stop snacking so much. And on the wrong things.

We reported previously on a British Medical Journal study titled “Are sweet snacks more sensitive to price increases than sugar-sweetened beverages: analysis of British food purchase data.”

The authors conclude: “Analysis presented here based on data from Great Britain suggests that extending fiscal policies to include sweet snacks could lead to larger public health benefits, both directly by reducing purchasing and therefore consumption of these foods, and indirectly by reducing demand for other snack foods and indeed SSBs.”

Indeed, efforts to raise awareness and increase economic costs seem to work.

The authors state that “research to date suggests that increasing the price of SSBs generates a small, but significant, reduction in their purchase (broadly, a 10% price rise reduces purchases by 6%–8%), with a more pronounced effect in poorer households and that substitution towards other soft drink categories only minimally offsets the energy reductions achieved through decreases in SSBs.”

Now the Washington Post reports that “researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that working adults obtained nearly 1,300 calories per week from foods and beverages they got at work. The findings emphasize that a number of Americans eat in the office — often for free — and that they snack on items that can add up to a lot of empty calories.”

The study, titled “Foods and Beverages Obtained at Worksites in the United States, states: “Nutrition is a key component of worksite wellness efforts to prevent chronic disease but little is known about the foods or beverages people obtain at work. The purpose of this study is to examine the frequency of purchasing or acquiring free foods and beverages at work, determine the foods most commonly obtained, and to assess the dietary quality of foods.”

The results:

  • “Nearly a quarter (22%) of working adults obtained foods or beverages at work during the week and the foods they obtained averaged 1277 kcal per person per week.”
  • “Obtaining foods at work differed by education level, sex, and race/ethnicity and was more common among college graduates, women, and non-Hispanic whites.”
  • “Among those who obtained food at work, 35% had one acquisition occasion, 20% had two, 12% had three, 11% had four, 12% had five, and 10% had more than five.”
  • “Acquiring food for free was more common than purchasing food (17% obtained free food at least once vs. 8% purchased food) and free food accounted for 71% of all calories acquired at work.”
  • “HEI-2010 scores suggest that work foods are high in empty calories, sodium, and refined grains and low in whole grains and fruit. The leading food types obtained include foods typically highin solid fat, added sugars, or sodium such as pizza, soft drinks, cookies/brownies, cakes and pies, and candy.”

The authors’ conclusion delivers a clear message for workplace wellness programs: “A significant number of working Americans obtain foods and beverages from work and the foods they obtain do not align with dietary guidance. Worksite wellness efforts should consider improving the dietary quality of foods sold or offered at work.”