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Drop that donut: Workers consuming 1,000 extra calories at work, researchers say

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Boston — Bagels and donuts during the breakfast meeting. Cake for birthday celebrations. Consuming extra food is a common occurrence for many workers. But before you grab that free donut, know this: Workplace snacks may be adding more than 1,000 calories to your daily diet.

Using data from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the food and drinks that 5,222 employees bought from work vending machines and cafeterias, as well as the free food set out in workplace common areas. They found that 22 percent of employees, at least once a week, bought or ate food that added up to nearly 1,300 calories – most of which tended to be food high in empty calories.

Of the 1,300 calories, more than 70 percent came from free junk food found around the office. The main culprits were pizza, sodas, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies and candy.

The free food contained “high amounts of sodium and refined grains and very little whole grains and fruit,” an American Society for Nutrition press release states. The study’s results were presented at the organization’s annual meeting in June.

“Our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” said Stephen Onufrak, epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at CDC.

The researchers suggest employers help instill better eating habits among employees with workplace wellness programs. Via the programs, employers could promote “healthy options that are also appealing,” the release states. They also could request that vending machines and cafeterias be stocked with healthy options.

“Employers may also want to consider healthy meeting policies to encourage healthy food options at meetings and social events,” Onufrak said.

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