June 24 (UPI) -- Employees aren't eating nutritious lunches at work, but many are looking for better options, new research shows.
Over half of workers in the United States have trouble eating healthy on the job, according to a survey published Tuesday by the American Heart Association. And 77 percent reported eating healthier on the job would help them make better eating decisions outside of the workplace.
"In the U.S., many people spend up to half their waking hours at work and eat several meals a week during working hours," Anne Thorndike, vice chair of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee, who wasn't involved in the research, told UPI. "In a recent study of employees at a large hospital, my research group recently showed that the employees who made the least healthy purchase in the hospital cafeterias were more likely to have unhealthy diets outside of work and to have higher rates of obesity, prediabetes and high blood pressure."
The survey included 907 U.S.-based employees over age 18 who normally ate lunch at work. The research is part of the Healthy for Life 20 By 20 joint initiative between the American Heart Association and food services company Aramark that promotes healthy living.
"We were interested in better understanding employee perceptions and attitudes regarding lunch food decisions to undercover any misunderstandings, myths, barriers, non-beneficial nutritional approaches and challenges to living and eating healthy," said Dan Wainfan, vice president of Brand Health, Wellness and Nutrition and Aramark.
The results showed about 91 percent of U.S. employees want to eat healthier during lunch at work, with those younger than age 40 being "extremely/very interested" versus people older than that group. Mood also seems to play a role in eating habits, with 35 percent of employees saying they consume unhealthy foods at work when stressed.
The food available at a workplace has a strong influence on what workers eat. In fact, 79 percent of workers eat at an on-site cafeteria, food or vending machine if one is available. About 68 percent want help from their employer to become healthier.
And recent research suggests employers aren't living up to that challenge. According to a new study, the poor quality of food at the workplace has contributed to cardiometabolic risk for employees.
"As part of our commitment, Aramark set a five-year goal to achieve a 20 percent reduction in calories, saturated fats and sodium, as well as a 20 percent increase in fruits, vegetable and whole grains in menus that are offered in colleges and universities, hospital cafes and workplaces we serve," Wainfan said. "After just three years, the average reduction in calories, saturated fats and sodium was 15 percent and increase in fruit, vegetables and whole grains was 9 percent."