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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.

7 Tips for Healthy Lunches While Tied to the Desk

Clearly, it's time to find a new place to dine -- like a restaurant or the cafeteria. But for those of us who just can't break away from that ever-expanding pile of work, here are some tips to ensure you still eat healthily:

  1. Watch what you eat. "Pay attention to what you're putting in your mouth when you eat at your desk," says Hall, who serves on the advisory board for the Arizona Governor's Council on Health, Physical Fitness, and Sports. "And don't overdo it by eating too much because you're too focused on email. For lunch, you want to pick a meal that's moderate in size but doesn't fill you up."
  2. Pack healthy lunches. "Lunch is a good opportunity to eat healthy," says Hall. "Bring a salad with chicken, nuts, beans and veggies -- you'll get some great nutrients, including fiber and protein." Avoid take-out lunches, which tend to be expensive, oversized, heavy in fat and calories, and lacking in nutrients. To keep your lunch safe, the American Dietetic Association recommends using an insulated lunch bag with a freezer pack to keep your food cold until you can put it in the office refrigerator. Still, don't let more than two hours pass before putting it back into a fridge.
  3. Walk when you can. "We're genetically designed to move," says Hall. "So spending lunch at your desk when you have a long day as it is, isn't a good thing." If you have to eat at your desk, look for ways to move during the day. Walk to the water cooler, from the farthest spot in the parking lot, to the copy machine -- anything you can do to move your muscles. Better yet, get some physical activity when you get up or at the end of the day to make up for your stagnant lifestyle.
  4. Disinfect your desk. "Wiping your whole desk area with disinfecting wipes once a day is enough to get it clean," says Gerba. "Paper towels don't work. They just give the germs a free ride around the office." Be sure to get your phone, your keyboard, and your mouse as well, and avoid touching those surfaces while you're eating, says Moores. "Otherwise, you're just contaminating your food over and over again." And while it shouldn't replace good old-fashioned hand washing, it's a good idea to keep some hand sanitizer in your desk drawer, too.
  5. Use a placemat. Give yourself some extra protection after the wipe-down. "Placemats are good because they create a barrier between your food and the bacteria," says Moores.
  6. Eat with a friend. "If you have to eat at your desk, invite an officemate over to eat with you," Moores suggests. "It's important from a productivity and creativity standpoint to get that break and interact with your colleagues."
  7. Don't make it a habit. "Sometimes I don't even realize I'm doing it -- it just becomes habit," Spencer says of eating at her desk. "But any time I can get away for lunch, I definitely take advantage of it. My ideal lunch is to just catch up with my friends at work, or relax and read a magazine in the cafeteria."

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Reviewed on March 24, 2006

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