American Workers Struggling with Healthy Lunches
A Harris Poll survey for the Healthy for Life® 20 By 20 initiative from the American Heart Association (AHA) and Aramark has identified a dearth of nutritious food options as a key problem for employees.
Conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Heart Association and Aramark as part of their joint initiative, , among 907 employed U.S. adults aged 18 or older who say they typically eat lunch during work hours.
Over half (56 per cent) of 907 employees surveyed who stated they usually eat at work indicated they struggle to eat a healthy lunch, with more than three-quarters (77 per cent) indicating they are more likely to make healthier decisions at other times of the day when they do eat healthily at lunch.
Key additional findings
- 82 per cent of employees agree having healthy food options at work is important to them, with over two-thirds (68 per cent) valuing help received from their employer in becoming healthier.
- Some four-fifths (79 per cent) of employees whose work premises feature on-site cafeteria, food service or vending machines obtain their food from these facilities at least some of the time.
- Eighty-six per cent of employees prepare packed lunches for work at home at least some of the time, with women (91 per cent) more likely to do so than men (82 per cent).
- When eating an unhealthy lunch, employees under 40 are more likely to be influenced at least a little by cost (91 per cent compared to 79 per cent) and the choices of their peers or coworkers (75 per cent compared to 5 per cent) than employees aged 40 and over.
- On a stressful day at work, around a third (35 per cent) of employees say their lunch is less healthy than a normal day, with women more likely to say so than men (40 per cent compared with 32 per cent).
- 91 per cent of employees are interested in improving the healthfulness of their typical workday lunch, with employees under 40 more likely to be extremely (or very interested) in comparison to colleagues aged over 40 (65 per cent compared to 55 per cent).
- 43 per cent of employees surveyed cited limited availability of healthy foods at work as having the greatest impact on their lunchtime menu selection, with 60 per cent citing convenience and 54 per cent indicating choices were dictated by taste preferences.
Commenting on the findings, Anne Thorndike, MD, MPH, vice chair of the AHA's Nutrition Committee and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said:
"Understanding what employees are eating for lunch on a typical workday and what factors influence their choices helps us develop strategies to improve dietary intake with multi-level approaches through food systems, communities and individuals.
"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."
Dan Wainfan, vice president, Brand Health, Wellness and Nutrition at Aramark, added:
"Aramark and the American Heart Association are proud of our shared commitment to help millions of people lead healthier lives,” says “Through this survey, and as part of extensive consumer insights gained throughout our Healthy for Life 20 By 20 initiative, consumers are emphasizing that health and wellness is top of mind every day. While they don’t always make a healthy choice, they always want delicious, healthy choices available—at work and at home."
“Improving the nutrition content and reducing calories of classic favorites and typically indulgent menu items helps. Having more plant-based options to choose from at home and on menus helps. But in the end, people still need to choose to eat healthier food. The good news is most people said they are interested in doing better,” said Thorndike.
Aramark has published resources for employees and employers who are interested in better food choices at www.heart.org/healthyforlife.
The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Heart Association and Aramark from May 14-16, 2019 among 1,062 employed U.S. adults ages 18 and older, 907 of whom say they typically eat lunch during work hours. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.