"With employees spending eight hours a day on average at their place of employment, a lot of people may not be aware of all of the calories they get from work, especially from foods they get for free".
Nearly one-in-four participants obtained food from work at least once a week and the average weekly calories consumed was nearly 1,300.
The food tended to be high in empty calories - those from solid fats and/or added sugars - with more than 70 per cent of the calories coming from food that was obtained for free.
The latest research, presented at an American Society for Nutrition meeting in Boston, said workplace foods are fuelling unhealthy eating.
As most of the food the employees received at work was free, the employers may now have to consider encouraging healthy food options at social events and meetings, said Onufrak.
Just think about the last time you heard a co-worker shout "free celery sticks in the break room!"
The first national study looking at what people eat at work and found that workers took in an average of 1,200 calories worth of food and beverages per person, per week. And how much calories are they exactly consuming?
"Our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans", he said in his statement.
The food and beverages that were analyzed by the researchers were that which the employees purchased at work from vending machines or cafeterias or which were obtained for free at meetings, social events at workplaces, common areas, etc.
The results of the study of 5,222 employees across the United States suggest that workplaces can play an important role to help ensure access to and promote healthier food options. They can install vending machines which come with healthier options and ensure the employees are offered with healthier choices at the workplace cafeterias.
The study included more than 5,200 people from a nationally representative group that completed a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey in 2012 and 2013. Vending machines could swap their cheese-flavored corn chips, at 250 calories with little nutritional value, for sunflower seeds that include healthy fats and fiber, at 160 calories. For their next study, the team will conduct a similar analysis using another dataset involving foods that are specifically purchased from vending machines and cafeterias in the workplace. The reason why this food is typically unhealthy is quite straightforward: employers want to give employees tasty food, often sweet.
"We have salad, French fries and pizza. among that list, there weren't a lot of nutrient-dense foods", Onufrak said.