Are you being offered too many tasty treats at work? How about at that last office birthday or retirement party? Does that communal kitchen somehow seem filled with irresistible snacks? Are those pizza-and-wing lunches too good to say “no” to? If so, you’re not alone.

Nearly a quarter of working adults obtain foods at work during the week, and the foods they consumed averaged nearly 1,300 calories per person, per week. That’s according to a 2019 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Unsurprisingly, the study also identifies the leading food types available at work as foods high in solid fat, added sugars, or sodium, such as pizza, soft drinks, cookies, brownies, cakes and pies, and candy.

The American Heart Association also conducted a recent survey, which found half of employed Americans struggle to eat a healthy lunch at work. However, nine in 10 are interested in improving the healthfulness of their typical workday lunch. More than four in five respondents agree that having healthy food options at work is important.

This points to a great opportunity for employers to implement healthy changes to their workplace food offerings.

Nine out of 10 workers are interested in improving the healthfulness of their typical workday lunch.

– American Heart Association Study

“Employers can offer appealing and healthy options in cafeterias, vending machines, and at meetings and social events,” said CDC study author Stephen J. Onufrak in a statement. “One way to do this is by incorporating food service guidelines and healthy meeting policies into worksite wellness efforts.”

Onufrak went on to explain that worksite wellness efforts have been shown to be effective at changing health behaviors among employees, reducing employee absenteeism, and reducing health care costs – which benefits both the employee and the employer.

Michelle Carbery, corporate wellness specialist at Independent Health, says employers can take simple steps to ensure employees have healthier snacks and meals during the work day.

“Some health insurers offer employers dietitians who can come in and make recommendations about healthy alternatives in vending machines and communal areas,” Michelle said. “It can be as simple as putting some healthy fruits and snacks in a big bowl in a common area. If it’s right there, people are more likely to take it.”

Some local employers have taken advantage of the Independent Health Foundation’s Healthy Options program, which aims to help the community make informed decisions about healthy eating by partnering with local restaurants to incorporate Healthy Options menu items, working with employers to increase workplace wellness and teaming up with community groups on a variety of other initiatives, such as healthy cooking classes.

“By investing in our employees’ health and incentivizing healthy choices, we aim to create a workplace environment that fosters healthy living and makes it easier for our employees to take charge of their well-being.”

– Lisa Shall, supervisor of health promotions for Mattel Fisher-Price.

Many companies also choose to implement healthy meeting policies, offering their employees healthful alternatives to the typical workplace lunch.

Employers in Buffalo can take advantage of the Healthy Options Catering program to help ensure their employees have healthy choices available during work-catered events and meetings, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options. Eleven local restaurants participate, including Wegmans, Rich’s Catering, Ru’s Pierogi, Fresh Catch Poke, and Giancarlo’s.

Learn more

The Healthy Options website includes a full listing of participating restaurants and their menu items, nutritional information, and printable catering menu. In addition, The Independent Health Foundation’s Healthy Options® program makes it easy for workplaces to encourage wellness and keep healthy eating on track, including its Healthy Meeting Policy.

Related article: Promoting healthy eating at work is a recipe for success