7 Tips for Healthy Lunches While You Work
Having lunch at your desk -- again? Here's how to enjoy healthy lunches even if you can’t leave the office.
Ellen Spencer admits it: She's a desk diner.
"I eat lunch at my desk three or four times a week," says Spencer,
an executive assistant in Boston. "I'd like to eat away from my desk with
my friends more often, or just get away from my desk for a while, but usually
it's just too busy."
Sound like anyone you know? Some 70% of Americans eat at their desks several
times a week, according to the American Dietetic Association and the ConAgra
The bad news is that this can lead not only to poor nutritional choices, but
to food safety problems as well.
"The desk was not designed to be an eating place," says Rick Hall,
RD, MS, a faculty member at Arizona State University in Phoenix. "So
spending your lunch hour in front of your computer brings with it a number of
What are the hungry and overworked to do? Can you still eat healthy lunches
while you work?
Read on for some desk-dining tips from experts. But first, here are some
reasons not to eat while you work.
Drawbacks of Desk Dining: Unhealthy Lunches and Weight Gain
One of the biggest drawbacks to eating at your desk is that you're not
focused on your food. Instead, you're sending emails, answering the phone,
shuffling paper -- the perfect recipe for overeating.
"Eating at your desk encourages mindless eating, and overeating,"
says Susan Moores, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
"You're most likely multitasking and not paying attention to the amount of
food you're eating."
Lunching at your desk also means that instead of sitting in front of a
computer for eight hours a day, you're doing it for nine.
"Eating at your desk also prevents you from getting up and out of your
office," Moores tells WebMD. "You need to get the heart pumping and the
blood flowing again, and lunch is an important time to do that. If you're
sitting at your desk eating, you lose that opportunity."
As if that weren't bad enough, dining at your desk can create a field day
for bacteria, which can invade your healthy lunch during the long hours from 9
"If you get called away from your desk, and then you have to put off
eating for an hour or two, and then you pick at your lunch over the day, you
need to be concerned about the temperature of your food and food safety,"
In other words, your room-temperature chicken salad sandwich that's been
sitting out for three hours can easily become a bacteria feeding ground. But
wait, it gets worse. (You might want to put that sandwich down now.)
"The desk, in terms of bacteria, is 400 times more dirty than your
toilet," says Charles Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology
at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "People turn their desks into
bacteria cafeterias because they eat at them, but they never clean them. The
phone is the dirtiest, the desktop is next, and the mouse and the computer
To give your desktop the dirt test, Gerba says, "Turn your keyboard over
and see how many crumbs fall out. The more of a snowstorm, the dirtier your