benefit fringe / workplace snacks.


It's 2:45 p.m., and your boss is leading an important meeting. Suddenly, she morphs into a human-sized churro, her presentation fills with Boston cream pie charts and candy bar graphs, and the growl in your stomach sends antelope scurrying for safety. Move along, willpower: YOU NEED A SNACK!

It's not just the hallucinations of hunger during late-afternoon meetings, either. Whether it's the candy in the vending machine, the french fries in the cafeteria line or the birthday cake in the conference room, it can be challenging to resist unhealthy food at work.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put a figure on, well, how snacks can impact our figures. Among 5,000 employees who obtained food at work, regardless of whether the food was free or paid for, people consumed an average of nearly 1,300 calories in a week.

And it wasn't because of a newly formed Kale Klub or Quinoa Clique. The leading food sources were high-calorie snacks such as pizza, sugar-sweetened drinks, cookies, brownies, hamburgers, doughnuts and potato chips. "When we looked at the dietary quality of the food from work, it tended to be low in whole grains and high in refined grains and empty calories," said Stephen Onufrak, a CDC epidemiologist. He added that "1,300 calories is fairly substantial, especially if it's coming from unplanned-for snacks that are adding to the weekly calories that we're already getting."

The study found that about 70% of the calories people consumed were obtained free of cost, making the treats all the more tempting. But employers have an opportunity to influence employee eating habits, Onufrak said, with research showing that about one-third of all employees have access to a...

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