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Bad snacks presenting weighty issue on the job

What's in the company vending machine and the communal office candy dish contributes to the expanding "bottom line" of the American worker, according to a new study.

Almost three-quarters of workers (72 percent) surveyed by Nationwide Better Health confessed they wolf down less-than-healthy snacks while on the job. Leading the list of break time "snack attack" offenders were chips and candy.

The survey, conducted in late July, found 72 percent of employees grab a junk food snack at least once a week. More than one-quarter (27 percent) admitted giving in to bad snack temptation three or more times a week. The snack consumption poll targeted only foods eaten between meals, and did not take into account additional snacks that workers had as part of at-work meals, or what they ate when off-the-job.

Interviews with a handful of downtown Buffalo workers regarding the junky snack poll illicited no reactions of surprise. In fact, the randomly chosen employees, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, admitted bad snacks are a constant in their work worlds.

"There's always somebody bringing desserts or something. I don't even have to go down to the vending lounge to find something I shouldn't eat," said a female bank staffer.

An Erie County employee said he relishes his daily 3 p.m. candy bar.

"My wife doesn't allow stuff like that in the house, so I have to eat it at work," he explained.

Another downtown worker said junk food consumption, especially between Halloween and New Year's Eve, is part of office culture.

"Fat season has officially begun," she said. "It starts with the candy we took away from our kids and brought to the work, and it will continue until all the Christmas cookies are gone and we go on an office-wide diet . . . which will end in time for Easter goodies."

And one guy, who admitted to working in the health care field, said he views his late-morning doughnut and mid-afternoon ice cream sandwich as "rewards" for completing his required tasks.

Nationwide Better Health, an Ohio health and productivity management firm, found younger staffers are the most frequent work-day consumers of junk food. Twenty-two percent of those ages 18 to 27 indicated they reach for unhealthy foods at least once while working. Only 13 percent of workers between 28 to 44 years old said they ate non-nutritious snacks five or more times per week, while just 9 percent of employees ages 45 and up gave into those frequent snack cravings.

Employers, who bear what the Centers for Disease Control estimates to be $4 billion a year in expenses related to overweight workers, could do more to steer their staffers toward nutritious between meal treats. Fewer than half (42 percent) of employees surveyed said their company stocks health snacks in its cafeteria or vending machines.

The survey also found that many snacking workers have no way to burn off the extra calories while on the job. More than one-third (34 percent) said their jobs require them to be parked at their desks for the majority of the day, and forty percent of workers between the ages 28 and 44 said they are chained to their desk and chair on a daily basis.

"Companies can provide resources that encourage their employees to eat well, stay active, and, in short, live the best life possible," said Dr. Neil Gordon, a physician who serves as Nationwide's chief medical and science officer, in statement regarding the snack survey.


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