healthy eating at work

Healthy Eating at Work: Not All Calories Are the Same

With the July Fourth celebrations fading and employees thinking about healthy eating at work, workplace wellness programs might find this good time to remind holiday eaters: Not all calories are the same.

We have reported previously on the dangers of “free” calories at work.

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.”

Now a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association makes the point rather clearly.

The study is titled “The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model of Obesity: Beyond ‘Calories In, Calories Out.’” It states: “For decades, consideration of ‘energy balance’ has informed efforts to prevent and treat obesity in the clinic and public health arena. Indeed, a recent scientific statement from the Endocrine Society concludes that “the answer to the question, ‘Is a calorie a calorie?’ is ‘yes.’ In other words, diets high in added sugar or other processed carbohydrates should have no special adverse effects on metabolism or body composition, after considering total calorie consumption. However, rates of obesity remain intractably high despite intensive focus on reducing calorie intake (eat less) and increasing calorie expenditure (move more), with major implications to well-being, life-expectancy, and health care costs.”

“A central problem with the conventional model of obesity is its inability to provide a satisfactory explanation for the obesity epidemic, beyond the difficulty many people have maintaining self-control in the modern environment. With weight loss, hunger predictably increases and energy expenditure declines—physiological adaptations that tend to push body weight back up. Why is the average person in the United States and Western Europe defending, from a biological perspective, a body weight 25 to 30 lb greater today than 50 years ago? An answer to this question may point the way to more effective prevention, with practical implications for clinical treatment.”

Tomorrow we go further in depth into the study.