Hacks for Eating Healthier Lunches at Work

The American Heart Association News knows it’s difficult to make work lunches nutritious. Here are a few reasons why most people struggle to eat well during lunch and how you can change that.

Lunch at work can be unexciting, and unhealthy. You’re often in a rush and looking for something quick, the cafeteria only has so many options, and the microwave is the best means for a hot meal. However, it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience if you listen to what the American Heart Association News has to day.

The Harris Poll for the American Heart Association and the food service company Aramark conducted an online survey to gauge workers attitudes about nutritious lunches. The results showed that over half of workers said they struggled to make lunch healthy, while 91 percent were interested in making their work lunches healthier.

But have no fear, said assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences Maya Vadiveloo. People can find many ways to make their work lunches healthier, and solutions involve both habits by workers and the places that serve them.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yes. But lunch is also incredibly important for keeping the body fueled and energized throughout the day, and for getting proper healthy nutrition. Assuming people do not often get much nutritional value out of their breakfasts during the week, lunch is the next best way to get your healthy serving recommendations, according to Health Day.

Vadiveloo agrees this is easier said than done, though. If you only have 15 minutes to eat between responsibilities, you’re probably not eating a balanced meal. This issue is worsened when a company cafeteria or fast-food eatery is offering unhealthy, quicker options.

Plus, cost is part of the equation. Healthier options are usually more expensive, so people do not usually gravitate toward them for that reason, too.

“And the reality is, if you're spending $5 to $7 on a salad, you're probably not getting the most satisfying salad, and you're going to be hungry shortly thereafter.”

And when a sub, chips, soda, and cookie are cheaper than a somewhat unsatisfying salad, it makes sense why people find it hard to eat healthy.

Still—the solutions are closer than you think.

Pack your lunch. Brown-bagging is an easy way to control your diet. Prepping meals ahead of time makes it easy to grab healthy food for lunch.

“Think about what you're going to be consuming for the week. If you're getting carrots ready, you can make five bags of carrots. Or have five apples ready to go” said Vadiveloo.

Think ahead. If you’re more inclined to dine out, thinking ahead can help. Planning where you will eat and what you will order will save you from making last minute, unhealthy options. Telling yourself that you’re going to order a salad rather than a one-thousand-calorie-burrito can help you make healthier options with ease. Research indicates people are better at making healthy choices when they aren’t agitated by hunger.

We are also less likely to make healthy choices before cravings kick in and we’re hungry. She also recommends taking advantage of restaurants that let you order ahead, well before the cravings kick in. When you can, make selections that include a least a serving of vegetables, some sort of fruit, whole grains and a lean protein.

Your own choices are not the only factor, though. People should call for better food environments at work. Look for ways to make the most of your workplace food options, and call for improvements when possible.

Eating right consistently really does have long-term effects on your health, mood, attitude, and work productivity. The pros of making healthier options can mean something as big as living longer, and something as small as feeling more energized one day.

“Over time, when people adopt healthier diets, they feel better,” said Vadiveloo.

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