When you work in a large enough office, the break room constantly seems to be hosting some sort of food-related celebration: cupcakes for Dianne’s new baby, pizza for Staff Appreciation Friday, a box of random doughnuts someone brought in because it’s Tuesday. According to a study from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, the average office worker (about a quarter of the population) consumes 1,300 calories a week just based on what they eat around the office, not food they bring from home or buy as take-out. We must really be used to free office goodies, because that number didn’t even seem terribly high to us.
WebMD says the study’s co-author, Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist at the CDC, pinpoints the main reason we can’t seem to resist the candy bars and chips: “The majority of the calories people got at work, people didn’t pay for—70 percent of the calories were free.”
That’s usually our rationale. Free food! What are we supposed to do, leave it there? What if we never see another Boston creme again? What if it gets thrown away? Tragic, we say. Based on our own experience, we’d also point to the influence of food peer pressure: When someone announces “Free tacos in the break room,” no one wants to be the loner who doesn’t dive into the guac trough. And work is stressful! Surely we’ve earned this completely unnecessary 3 p.m. enchilada.
Pizza was the food responsible for the most calories consumed, according to the survey of more than 5,000 employees, followed by sandwiches and non-diet sodas. Onufrak tells ABC News that employers should consider swapping pizza and sandwiches for healthier options: “Employers can encourage healthier foods at meetings and events, especially when the employer is providing free food to employees.”
The staff-morale consequences of switching up Pizza Fridays for Veggie-And-Hummus Fridays have not yet been examined.