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Healthy eating at work translates into overall healthy eating habits

Eating unhealthy meals at work may put consumers at great risk

Photo (c) Milkos - Getty Images
Following a healthy diet often comes with temptations when birthdays or special occasions roll around, and now researchers are exploring how workplace eating habits could affect consumers’ diet outside of work.

Based on a new study, researchers have found that making unhealthy food choices at work correlated with employees having a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, a greater likelihood of developing obesity, and making unhealthy choices when they’re not at work.

“Employer-sponsored programs to promote healthy eating could reach millions of Americans and help to curb obesity, a worsening epidemic that too often leads to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer,” said researcher Dr. Anne N. Thorndike.

Every choice counts

To come to their conclusions, the researchers observed the eating habits of over 600 hospital workers from Massachusetts General Hospital, keeping tabs on the food items employees bought in the hospital’s cafeteria. The researchers also had the hospital workers report on their dietary habits when they’re not at work to gain a better understanding of what their typical daily food intake looks like.

The team found that those who made unhealthier purchases in the hospital cafeteria were also more likely to make unhealthier choices when they weren’t at work, and they were also at a greater risk of becoming obese and developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

Though this study focuses solely on hospital workers, the findings hold weight for consumers regardless of where they work. It’s important for consumers to have healthy habits in place that they can rely on throughout the course of the work day that can help contribute to their overall health when they’re not at work.

It’s been made clear from this study that our choices at work affect the choices we make during leisure time. In order to lead healthy lifestyles, consumers need to be able to make the most informed decisions possible.

The researchers hope that employers will work harder to implement company-wide wellness programs that employees can utilize to improve their overall health.

“Workplace wellness programs have the potential to promote lifestyle changes among large populations of employees, yet to date there have been challenges to developing effective programs,” said Dr. Jessica L. McCurley. “We hope our findings will help to inform the development of accessible, scalable, and affordable interventions.”

Workplace benefits

A recent study revealed that 50 percent of workplaces across the country offer their employees health and wellness programs.

Over 90 percent of bigger companies had wellness programs, while under 40 percent of smaller companies offered the same. Moreover, not all health programs offer a full range of benefits, and many lacked the educational and outreach a lot of employees were looking for.

“Most American adults work, and many spend half or more of their waking hours at work,” said researcher Laura Linnan. “Where we work, how long we work, the conditions of our work, who we work with -- all of these factors impact our health.”

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