Are you aware of how many of your daily calories you consume while you’re at work? You may be surprised to hear that you devour at least one third of your daily calorie intake while at work. This means the workplace is an ideal place to start when it comes to adopting healthier food choices.  By the time you get to your lunch break you’re often starving and all that determination you had to eat something healthy goes out the window as soon as you see that £3 meal deal including an extra large snickers in the shop down the road. Don’t beat yourself up, temptation breaks the best of us! Due to the fact that it can be difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan during work hours we have come up with some tips to help you remain healthy on your lunch break.

Eat Breakfast

Breakfast has a massive impact on what you then go on to eat for lunch. Health professionals are always saying how important breakfast is, but that’s because it really is! Research shows that people who eat a morning meal actually consume fewer calories throughout the day.

Dr Mark Pereira and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School found that people who ate breakfast every day were a third less likely to be obese compared to those who skipped the meal. In addition, they were half as likely to have blood-sugar problems, which increase the risk of developing diabetes of having high cholesterol, which is a known risk factor for heart disease. The researchers believe that eating first thing in the morning may help to stabilise blood sugar levels, which regulate appetite and energy.

Try not to eat at your desk

Roughly 70% of Brits and 67% of Americans eat lunch at their desks. This prevents your from getting out of the office and getting your blood flowing and the heart pumping. Eating at your desk can encourage mindless eating and overeating.

It can also be a very dirty place to be eating. Studies, such as the 2012 Tork Report, have shockingly shown that the average work areas can carry 400 times more dangerous bacteria than the average public toilet seat. That is stomach turning! Also, food sitting too long at room temperature provides a cosy place for germs to multiply. (Another lovely thought)! However, all is not lost. Experts say that cleaning these areas once a week should be sufficient for a healthy space.

Do NOT skip lunch

When you skip meals your metabolism slows down so you are not burning calories like you should. Your body needs and thrives off the necessary nutrients to get you through the rest of the day! The health and science journalist, Christopher Wanjek, found that workers who skip lunch are much more stressed, less productive and only end up snacking in the afternoon anyway.

Pack your lunch the night before

Work out how much you will need to eat and be full at work and then pack it and take it with you – this will not only save you money but also excess calories. You would be surprised how much a packed lunch will alter your unhealthy habits. If you have an appetising healthy meal already in front of you, there is no need to decide what to have for lunch as it is already there.

Cooking a bit extra dinner the night before is also a great money and time-saving plan. You can for example, transform a roast chicken into tomorrow’s lunchtime chicken salad!

If you do eat out – be picky!

If it is the third time that week that you are eating out then consciously choose lower-fat, lower-carb items. Limit your portion size – you don’t have to eat everything on your plate and your friend’s leftovers too, remember!

There is often a feeling of ‘make the most of it’ if you’re out on a business lunch so try and break this mentality as it’s doing you no favours! You can still opt for the steak of course, but have it with a salad instead of chips. Drinking a large glass of water before your meal is also a great tip.

Let others know

Letting others know about your motives to eat better will benefit you in the long run. They will be less likely to offer you snacks and offer encouragement, we hope!

Some Healthy Lunchtime ideas

All these recipes below are full of goodness and not too difficult to make the night before work or even the morning before if you are an early riser!

Roasted vegetables and couscous salad

Courtesy of BBC GoodFood

Ingredients:

  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, halved and deseeded
  • ½ butternut squash
  • 2 courgettes, thickly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, leave skin on
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste
  • 50g whole blanched almonds
  • 250g couscous
  • 300ml hot vegetable stock
  • zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 20g pack mint , roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cut peppers and squash into bite-size pieces (leave skin on the squash). Tip all the vegetables into a baking tray, add garlic, 2 tbsp oil and seasoning, then mix and roast for 20 mins. Add onion, cumin, harissa and almonds. Roast for another 20 mins, then cool.
  2. Put couscous into a large bowl, pour over the stock, cover, then set aside for 10 mins. Fluff up with a fork.
  3. In a bowl, mix zest, juice and remaining oil. Squeeze garlic pulp from skins into the bowl, mash well and fold in the mint. Pour over the vegetables then toss with the couscous.

Moroccan chickpea soup

Courtesy of BBC GoodFood

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 600ml hot vegetable stock
  • 400g can chopped plum tomatoeswith garlic
  • 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 100g frozen broad beans
  • zest and juice ½ lemon
  • large handful coriander or parsley and flatbread, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then fry the onion and celery gently for 10 mins until softened, stirring frequently. Tip in the cumin and fry for another min.
  2. Turn up the heat, then add the stock, tomatoes and chickpeas, plus a good grind of black pepper. Simmer for 8 mins. Throw in broad beans and lemon juice, cook for a further 2 mins. Season to taste, then top with a sprinkling of lemon zest and chopped herbs. Serve with flatbread.

Spicing it up

Spice it up further with a spoonful of harissa paste. Curry lovers can swap the cumin for 1 tsp of garam marsala. Or for a more hearty dish, fry 4 sliced chorizo sausages along with the onions and celery.

Smoked Salmon and Avocado on Rye

Courtesy of BBC Good Food

Ingredients

  • ½ avocado
  • chilli paste
  • squeeze lime or lemon juice
  • rye bread
  • few slices smoked salmon
  • lime wedges
  • (slices of roast chicken or turkey also work well)

Method:

  1. Mash the avocado with a little chilli paste and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice. Spoon over a slice of rye bread and top with the sliced smoked salmon and lime wedges.
  2. This is also good with sliced roast chicken or turkey.