More than 20 percent of Americans get food from work at least once a week and much of it, by any stretch of gooey oozy pizza cheese, is not healthy for us, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.
American worker bees eat an average of 1,300 calories at work every week and many of those calories are high in fat and sugar - so-called empty calories. according to EurekAlert! online science news service, which published the study results on Monday.
And, more than 70 percent of those calories come from free food at work, according to the study.
Just think about the last time you heard a co-worker shout "free celery sticks in the break room!"
In the week that was studied, "nearly one in four working adults obtained food at work ... 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, a CDC epidemiologist in the 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.”
In a statement to NBC NEWS and other news outlets, Onufrak said that, to his knowledge, "this is the first national study to look at the food people get at work." Researchers will present their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston this week, according to EurekAlert!.
"Our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," he said in his statement.
Here's how they don't.
When 5,222 employees across the country were asked about the free food they eat at work, the snacks rarely included whole grains or fruit, according to EurekAlert!
What they are eating and drinking at work: Pizza, soda, cookies, brownies, cake and candy.
The new study used data from the US Department of Agriculture Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey, a national household study, NBC reported.
CDC researchers analyzed the food or beverages employees bought at work from vending machines or cafeterias or got for free from common areas, at meetings or workplace social functions.
The bottom line for researchers: Employers can play more of a role to promote healthier food choices and provide access to them, such as making sure vending machines and employee cafeterias offer healthy options.
ABC reported a few of the researchers' suggestions, including promoting a salad bar over a pizza or burrito station in the employee cafeteria and replacing those cheese-flavored chips in the vending machines with sunflower seeds.
CDC researchers would also like to see calories and nutritional contents listed on vending machine and cafeteria items to give employees pause.
And about all that free food.
“Employers can encourage healthier foods at meetings and events, especially when the employer is providing free food to employees,” Onufrak told ABC. “Providing delicious, appealing, healthy food can also help to create a culture of health at a workplace.”