A new survey by the American Heart Association found that workers tend to eat poorly when there aren’t good options around, or when they’re stressed. Healthier food options nearby might help matters.
Whether at the office or around the corner, lunchtime meals are often a minefield for the 9-to-5 crowd.
Which is not good, because bad nutrition choices during your lunch break tend to lead to bad nutrition choices during other times of the day.
That’s the take of the American Heart Association, which reported that more than half of Americans (56 percent) say they struggle to eat healthy meals while at work, while three quarters say they would likely eat healthier during other parts of the day if they had a healthy lunch.
The study of more than 900 working U.S. adults was conducted as a part of the Healthy for Life 20 By 20 initiative, which AHA is running with Aramark.
The survey found that 91 percent wanted to improve the healthiness of their lunch, with more interest seen among employees under the age of 40. Slightly more than a third (35 percent) said that their food choices tended to be less healthy during stressful periods, and that unhealthy food choices for workers under age 40 tended to be influenced by cost (91 percent) or peer decision making (75 percent).
However, there were some positives to be found in the research. For example, it found that 68 percent of respondents said they value help from their employers on health initiatives—likely to be music to the ears of organizations that have put a focus on wellness programs in recent years. And 82 percent of respondents said that healthier food options at the office were important. On the other hand, 43 percent said that a lack of healthy food was a factor in poor work meal decisions.
In a news release, Ann Thorndike, MD, vice chair of AHA’s Nutrition Committee, noted that these sorts of findings make it possible to develop broader strategies for improving food systems at offices—a major goal of the 20 By 20 campaign, which has helped reduce calories, fat, and sodium by 15 percent at Aramark cafeterias around the country.
“The finding that healthier food choices at work may impact food choices throughout the rest of the day presents a unique opportunity for the workplace to have a positive influence on not only the employee’s health but also the health of the employee’s family,” she said.