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Free cupcakes at work are ruining your waistline

Vending machines and kindly colleagues are not benefiting your health
by Maggie Fox /
Image: Cupcakes
No one thinks those cupcakes in the office kitchen are good for you, but a new study shows just how much junk Americans are eating at work, and it's a lot.Natalia Melikhova / Shutterstock / Natalia Melikhova

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No one thinks those cupcakes in the office kitchen are good for you, but a new study shows just how much junk Americans are eating at work, and it’s a lot.

More than 20 percent of working Americans are getting food at work, the team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. How much are they getting? Nearly 1,300 calories a week.

"To our knowledge, this is the first national study to look at the food people get at work," said Stephen Onufrak, a CDC epidemiologist who led the study, presented Monday at a meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.

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"Since we found that a lot of the foods obtained by employees were free, employers may also want to consider healthy meeting policies to encourage healthy food options at meetings and social events," said Onufrak.

The CDC team used data from a national survey to figure out who is getting goodies in the office break room, and just how much they are gobbling.

“Free food accounted for 71 percent of all calories acquired at work,” Onufrak’s team wrote in a summary of their work.

And when people were asked about what they were getting for free, the snacks were usually high in empty calories, sodium, and refined grains. They rarely included whole grains or fruit.

The usual suspects were pizza, soft drinks, cookies/brownies, cakes and pies, and candy.

Employers can do more to help make sure their workers aren’t killing themselves with kindness, Onufrak said. They can stock vending machines with healthier options and make sure employee cafeterias offer healthful choices.

"Since we found that a lot of the foods obtained by employees were free, employers may also want to consider healthy meeting policies to encourage healthy food options at meetings and social events," he said.

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