Here's What We Get From Free Food at Work

Less than 70 percent of your compensation at work comes from wages. The rest is all about those benefits. That doesn't just encompass health care or extra vacation days: If your office lounge is full of free snacks, you're already familiar. As satisfying as taking a break over some communal cupcakes is, it's probably worth watching what happens next.

A new federal government study released this week shows that American workers don't pay for 70 percent of the calories they consume at the office. About one-quarter of American workers are "acquiring" almost 1,300 calories at work for free, whether it's pizza, a protein bar, coffee, candy, or soft drinks. Those snacks tend to be high in refined sugar, salt, and so-called empty calories. That's all on top of whatever employees have for their main meals of the day.

We all need breaks at work, especially given the often-unspoken pressure not to take them. Burnout is a major issue in the workplace, and there are ways to deal with it. Even if you're not exhausted by your job, keep an eye on what you eat, how often, and why. When we're dealing with anxiety, depression, or simple stress, many of us turn to food.

If you notice that you're gravitating toward all that free food, day in and day out, consider whether you need to reevaluate your commitments and processes. The office pantry can be a great perk. If you're using it as an emotional crutch, take a step back and figure out what you can change.