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5 Ways to Improve Lunch at Your Desk

5 Ways to Improve Lunch at Your Desk 0

If you’re like many of us, you end up eating lunch at your desk — a lot. About half to two-thirds of us regularly eat lunch at our desks, AKA “al desko.” Either we’re trying to save a few bucks, lack the time to eat out or we’re using the time to catch up on emails, social media or work. Many health experts are telling us that eating at our desk is not good for our health for a variety of reasons. In a perfect world, we’d be able to get outside and enjoy a leisurely lunch every day with a friend — but we live in the real world, a world that is exceedingly busy and chaotic. If you must eat at your desk, we’ve got some ideas for how to make dining “al desko” healthier and more pleasant!

#1) Make Your Environment More Pleasant for “Al Desko” Dining

If you were choosing a table in a restaurant, would you pick the one with intense spotlights, paper napkins and plastic silverware — or would you choose the one with soft lighting, linen napkins, a clean tablecloth and real flatware?  If you know you’re going to be stuck at your desk for lunch often, these ideas can make it more pleasant:

Get a Placemat, Napkin and Silverware: Instead of hunching over your keyboard and staring at your monitor, clear a space on your desk, even it means lifting your keyboard out of the way. Bring in a fun or peaceful placemat and a cloth napkin and place them in your cleared space when it’s time for lunch. Bring in flatware from home or buy a portable cutlery set that can be neatly stored in your desk. Research has shown people report that food tastes better when it’s eaten using metal instead of plastic silverware.

Get a Small Desk or Floor Lamp: Depending on the size of your space, adding some softer lighting around your desk can create a more relaxing environment and reduce eye strain. If you can, try to sit near natural light or ask if you can remove a few bulbs from the overhead lighting around your workspace if it’s too bright — and turn off your monitor while you eat.

Hang Artwork: Even if you’re stuck in a small cubicle, hanging a few posters or images of a beautiful beach, a flowering meadow or any other soothing scene can make your immediate workspace feel less dull. Try to eat facing your images instead of staring at your monitor. Taking even a 15-minute break from the screen gives your mind and brain a much-needed break!

#2) Eat Somewhere Else in the Office

If you have a breakroom, empty conference room or a lobby in your building, try to eat lunch away from your desk — look for somewhere near a window. If it’s nice outside, take your lunch outside! Research has shown that our brains need a break and we become more productive if we take a few breaks throughout the day.

If your lunch is portable enough to carry to your desk, it’s not that hard to make it portable enough to carry it to a more pleasant location. Just remember to bring silverware, a napkin or anything else that will turn your little lunch-hack-bistro-dining spot into a more enjoyable experience!

#3) Eat with Other Humans

Even better, try to eat with others instead of eating alone. Half of us eat lunch alone — research has also shown that eating with our colleagues fosters teamwork and camaraderie. Invite a colleague to pull over their chair to your desk or to sit with you in the breakroom. Many companies are now implementing policies that ban their employees from eating alone at their desks! You can informally initiate this change in your workplace.

#4) Take a Walk After Lunch

Many of us sit much of the day, which not only makes it harder to keep the extra pounds from creeping on — research has found being sedentary for long periods increases disease risks such as Type 2 diabetes, dementia, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stroke. Check out this infographic from the Washington Post about the dangers of sitting too much.

If you can’t get outside for a 10 to 20-minute walk due to weather or some other reason, find ways to walk around your office — the fire escape stairs can make a great place to get your blood flowing!

#5) Ditch the Boring Sandwich

Are you packing the same, old foods every week — a plain turkey sandwich, a ho-hum frozen entrée, a boring salad or whatever leftovers appear edible? None of those are likely to make you look forward to lunch. It’s not that hard to swap out the boring same-old, same-old for lunch meals that are packed with more flavor and healthy ingredients. If you’re grilling meats, roasting veggies, steaming rice, boiling pasta or making sauces for dinner, make extra that can be repurposed into tasty lunches.

For example, say you made broiled chicken with a teriyaki glaze, roasted asparagus and brown rice for dinner. Use those extras to assemble an awesome bowl! Once you’ve added the rice, chicken and asparagus into your lunch container, add shelled edamame, sliced bell peppers, baby spinach leaves, chopped cilantro and shredded carrots. Drizzle siracha or your favorite condiment and you’ve got a tasty, healthy lunch that’s easy to reheat or eat chilled.   

If you’re thinking, “Yeah, that sounds great — but, I don’t have the time or cooking expertise to craft healthy dinners that will yield amazing extras for interesting lunches.” Instead of running out to the nearest take-out restaurant near your office, you can sign up for home meal deliveries that are packed full of freshly prepared, flavorful ingredients. You order online, they deliver a variety of lunch bowls to your doorstep and you grab one as you head out the door to reheat at your office. You get to enjoy a chef-prepared lunch with none of the work — no shopping, prepping, cooking, cleaning or assembling!

With just a few minor tweaks in your work lunchtime routine, you can eat healthier, feel physically and mentally refreshed, reduce your disease risk and maybe even make some new connections with your colleagues. Don’t let dining “al desko” be the low point in your day!