One of the best perks of your job is finally being able to take a lunch break. It’s one of the few times during the work day where you can relax and not think about all of your uncompleted tasks, all while munching on your favorite meal.
But, some of your lunchtime habits could actually be affecting your health. Your physical and even your mental health can be drastically impacted by the things you choose to do during lunch, so make sure you’re making the right decisions for your body. While you’re at it, switch these terrible habits out with the 18 Lunch Rituals to Help You Lose Weight to keep your figure slim and your body energized to take on the rest of the day ahead of you.
You Eat Out Every Day
Getting takeout on the reg is not doing your figure any favors. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that dishes from restaurants and fast food joints contain significantly more calories, saturated fat, and salt compared to homemade meals. Specifically, dining out will tack on an extra 190 calories a day compared to if you chose to whip up something yourself. If you don’t want to part with your favorite fast food meals, then check out these 20 Homemade, Healthy ‘Fast Food’ Recipes.
You Eat At Your Desk
Bringing your lunch bag to your work desk can actually cause you to eat more than expected. A study conducted by the University of Bristol showed that eating at your desk can increase the amount of food you consume during your lunch break. This is because you’re distracted while you’re eating, which causes you to lose track on how much you consume.
You’re Scrolling Through Your Phone While You Eat
Using your phone while you eat is another form of distracted eating. Similarly to working at your desk, your phone causes you to not focus on how much you’re eating, which leads to overeating. Try taking a break from all of your tech products during your lunch and focus on your food to avoid overeating.
You Get A Second Cup Of Coffee
Taking a second trip to the office coffee pot over your lunch break isn’t the best idea if you want to get a good night’s sleep. According to a study by the University of Bristol, drinking a cup of coffee even six hours before bed can disturb your sleep pattern and cause you to sleep less. If you typically eat a late lunch at 3 p.m., you might have trouble shutting down at 9 p.m.
You Don’t Pack Anything Green
Keeping green veggies out of your lunch can leave huge nutritional gaps in your meal. Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale are full of nutrients like fiber (an essential for your digestive regularity), vitamin C (which is beneficial for younger-looking skin), and antioxidants. Try making a kale salad, or use a collard green leaf as a wrap instead of using tortillas made with white, refined grains.
You Don’t Get Dressing On The Side
Many dressings are filled with inflammatory soybean oil and sodium that can ruin your otherwise healthy salad. For example, a standard Ranch dressing adds an extra 139 calories and 13 grams of fat per serving (about two tablespoons). So, make sure to use dressing sparingly, or opt for alternatives. A little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic will give your salad the healthy fats you need while adding tons of flavor.
You Eat Bread With Your Salad
Another salad additive you should avoid is white bread. White bread is little more than empty carbs, which your body breaks down into simple sugars more quickly that higher-fiber whole grain bread and it spikes blood sugar levels. It also tacks on an extra 100 calories to your meal or more, depending on the restaurant. If you must have bread with your salad, try whole grain options that contain more fiber than white breads, which aids in digestion.
You Eat Too Late (Or Too Early)
It turns out that when you eat is just as important as what you eat. If you eat too early, chances are you’re just going to get hungry again by the end of your shift and scan through the office snacks, causing you to eat more unnecessary calories. However, if you wait until you’re starving to take your lunch break, you could end up eating more food than you normally would during lunchtime. One study found that dieters who ate their main meal before 3 p.m. lost significantly more weight than those who ate later in the day, despite both groups consuming the same calories. Researchers hypothesize that putting off your meal until late in the day can throw your brain’s master clock out of sync with the cellular clocks that regulate metabolism. Use your hunger as a guide and eat lunch as soon as that tummy starts rumbling.
You’re Using White Bread For Your Sandwich
White bread is filled with simple carbs that can deter your weight loss by keeping you always hungry. Instead of using white bread for your sandwich, try making the switch to healthier whole grain bread, or make a wrap using a lettuce leaf to keep your lunch low-carb and low-calorie.
You’re Using Fatty Condiments
Some condiments can actually turn a perfectly healthy lunch into a fattening one. One tablespoon of mayonnaise adds an extra 11 grams of fat to your meal, and full-fat ranch adds another 15. Use something low-cal like hot sauce or dijon mustard, neither of which are more than 10 calories per serving.
You’re Eating Processed Deli Meats
A turkey sandwich may sound healthy, but that might not be the case if you’re using processed deli meat instead of slicing your own homemade roasted turkey breast. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), high consumption of these highly-processed deli meats has been shown to increase risk of cancer and other chronic diseases due to their high concentration of nitrates. So, skip the deli meats and try adding some fresh pieces of rotisserie turkey or chicken breast.
You’re Drinking Soda
Soda has a bad reputation for a reason: it’s packed with more sugar than you’re supposed to consume in a single day! A regular soda contains 39 grams of sugar, which is more than the recommended daily intake for both men and women (38 grams for the former and 25 grams the latter, according to the American Heart Association). And diet soda is not healthier, since it contains artificial sweeteners that have been connected to long-term weight gain. Stick to hydrating water (or if you want something bubbly, seltzer water) for no extra calories and sugar with your next lunch.
You’re Dunking Veggies In Fatty Dips
Carrots and celery are a very healthy side to your lunch, but not when you’re dunking them in full-fat ranch dip. Those dips may make your veggies a little tastier, but they’re adding excess fat into your diet—around 15 grams and 150 calories. Instead of ranch, go for healthier dip choices like hummus, which has only 25 calories per tablespoon.
You’re Eating ‘Low-Fat’ Yogurt
Sometimes, having full-fat products may actually benefit you more than lower fat versions. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who consumed full-fat dairy products had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in comparison to those who had low-fat dairy products. So stick to healthier, protein-packed options like full-fat plain Greek yogurt and jazz it up yourself with fresh berries and nuts or seeds.
Your Food Is Delivered
Takeout and restaurant foods are known to be unhealthier than meals made at home, and delivery food is no exception to this rule. If anything, delivery is the worst option since it gives you an incentive to barely move around during your lunch break. Instead of getting your food delivered to you, take a walk to pick it up or save your money and meal prep delicious and nutritious dishes to bring to lunch for the week.
You’re Eating While On The Go
If the line was too long at the deli, you may feel the need to eat while you’re trying to run back to the office before your break ends. That’s actually not a great idea, since it’s another form of mindless eating, which can lead to overconsumption of food. A study by the University of Surrey showed that eating while on the go can lead to eating more food later in the day due to lack of satisfaction.
You’re Eating Alone
It turns out, you should be munching on your lunch with a buddy for the sake of your health. A study conducted by the University of Cambridge shows that people who ate alone were more prone to eating meals that didn’t contain the recommended serving of vegetables, therefore lacking in nutrition and increasing risk of diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Your Salad Is Just Lettuce
A bowl of lettuce and dressing isn’t a nutritious salad. Lettuce is low in calories, but you need other healthy additives like tomatoes, grilled chicken, and chickpeas for a boost of nutritional benefits (tomatoes have skin-clearing vitamin C, grilled chicken is a lean source of protein, and chickpeas are packed with fiber). Make your salad colorful, but make sure to avoid fattening additives like croutons, creamy dressings, and bacon bits.
You’re Microwaving Your Meals In Plastic Containers
If you’re bringing food from home, make sure you’re not microwaving your food in plastic containers. According to Harvard Medical School, microwaving food in containers that have a presence of bisphenol-A (also known as BPA, which is a chemical that makes plastic clear and durable) and plastic-softening phthalates can cause these harsh chemicals to seep into your food, which can affect your thyroid and hormone levels. (That’s a major problem since your thyroid influences your calorie-burning metabolism.) Try using BPA-free containers, like glass or ceramic, instead to keep your body safe from harsh chemicals.
Drinking From Large Glasses
Drinking sugary drinks like juices and soda are already a detriment to your diet, but chugging them from large glasses is only going to lead to you consuming more than the recommended 8-ounce serving. Some glasses can be the size of twice the recommended serving, so make sure you drink from a glass that’s 8 ounces.
You’re Skipping Lunch Altogether
No matter how much work you need to get done, skipping meals is never a good idea. A study published by the Journal of Nutrition has shown that people who skip lunch (or any meal in general) become more irritable, frustrated, and emotionally wiped out. Skipping lunch can also impact your concentration, so make sure to pack a nutritious lunch to keep your head focused for the rest of the work day.
You’re On A Juice Cleanse
First off, many juices contain an obscene amount of sugar. A glass of apple juice can contain 37 grams of sugar, almost as much as a regular soda. Also, many of these juices don’t contain the fiber and nutrients that eating a whole fruit has, so you might as well stick to a regular piece of fruit instead.
You’re Sitting Down After Eating
This one may be hard to avoid if you work in an office, but try not to sit down after eating if you want to lose weight. A study published in the International Journal of General Medicine showed that walking for 30 minutes right after a meal can actually aid weight loss. Although devoting 30 minutes of your hour lunch break to walking can seem hard, try getting in as much walking as you can during this time. Instead of sitting after eating, take a couple trips up the flight of stairs or walk around the block.
Your Lunch Doesn’t Include All Food Groups
Eating a salad is a great choice for lunch, but you should try to get in all the food groups: opt for an olive oil dressing for healthy fats, chickpeas for complex carbs, and a lean protein like grilled chicken or salmon. Making sure you have all of the main food groups will supply you with a variety of nutrients needed for a healthy body.
You’re Overeating ‘Healthy’ Food
Everything can be unhealthy when eaten out of moderation. Almonds are a great snack choice because of their protein and fiber, but they are still calorie-dense. If you don’t measure out a ¼ cup serving size, you could end up downing up to 300 calories for just half a cup.
You’re Only Focusing On Calories
While focusing on calories is important for weight loss, it’s not the only content you should be taking into consideration when trying to find a healthy meal. Fat, carbs, sodium, and sugar content should also be looked at, since these can also contribute to weight gain. Make sure you look over the whole nutrition label before you munch on something to make sure you aren’t consuming too much of these factors that can increase your waistline.
You’re Stress Eating
If you’ve had a rough day at work, you may feel compelled to eat away your stress. Well, that impulsive emotional eating can actually lead to weight gain. A study published in Minerva Endocrinologica noted that uncontrollable stress does affect your eating patterns, and could actually cause you to eat more than you usually would. Try to keep yourself calm when you eat, and practice mindful eating techniques to make sure your stress doesn’t get the best of you.
You’re Not Eating Any Fruit
Fruit is an essential part to a balanced diet, and you should have four servings of fruit a day, according to The American Heart Association. Try adding some apple pieces to your salad, or a cup of mixed berries as a side.
You’re Snacking After Lunch
If you’re reaching for the office snacks after your lunch break, your meal was definitely not filled with hunger-relieving nutrients like fiber, protein, and healthy fat. There are tons of reasons why you can be hungry after a meal, which we featured in our list of 30 Reasons Why You’re Always Hungry. If you must eat a snack to settle your hunger, reach for a fresh fruit instead of sugary candy bars or fat-filled chips.
You’re Eating Too Quickly
Eating too quickly can cause you to eat much more than you normally would. A study published by The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who tend to eat faster are more likely to be obese than slower eaters. So, make sure you pace yourself when you’re eating to avoid consuming too much during your lunch break.
You’re Mindlessly Eating
Whether you’re eating while you’re on your computer or simply using a larger plate, your subconscious food choices can be considered mindless eating, according to an article by The National Institutes of Health (NIH). Putting focus on every aspect that involves your meal, such as the size of your plate and the pace you’re eating at, can influence to have healthier relationship with food.
You’re Ordering The Largest Sized Meal
Upgrading your meal to the largest size for just a few cents more may seem fiscally savvy, but you’re not doing your waist any favors. If you order a 4-piece McNugget meal with a small order of fries from McDonald’s, you’re only consuming 400 calories. But, upgrading to a large 10-piece meal with large fries will hike your meal up to 950 calories and a whopping 51 grams of fat. Do your body a favor and eat in moderation if you’re going to eat from fast food joints.
You’re Adding More Salt
Adding an extra pinch of salt can do some huge nutritional damage. According to a study published by medical journal Hypertension, consuming too much salt can increase your risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease as well as raise your blood pressure. Avoid adding excess salt to your next meal to keep your waist thin and your heart healthy.
You’re Only Eating Salad
Yes, salad is considered a healthy meal, but you may be leaving nutritional gaps in your lunch meal if you’re only consuming salad. You need a variety of nutrients, like proteins, fiber, and carbs, to keep your body happy and healthy throughout the day. Fill those nutritional gaps by switching up your lunch every now and then with these 30 Healthy Lunch Ideas That Aren’t Salad.
You Never Moderately Indulge
Letting yourself have one candy bar occasionally isn’t going to harm your body, but restricting yourself of any indulgences may in the long run. The National Institutes of Health noted that restricting yourself of any sugary foods can actually lead to overeating in the long run, and has actually caused anxiety and withdrawal-like symptoms. So feel free polish off your lunch with a few bites of a bar of dark chocolate for a satisfying treat.
You’re Not Meal Prepping Your Lunch
Instead of ordering takeout or trying to whip up something quick for lunch before you head to work, try meal prepping. You’re able to thoughtfully create meals for the week that can be nutritious and delicious, and you won’t have to stress in the morning about what you need to concoct for your midday meal or spend money dining out. Try these 25 Tips For Meal Prep Sunday to keep your wallet and your stomach happy for the week.
You Smoke On Your Lunch Break
You already know smoking is terrible for you, but it bears repeating: this nasty habit does tons of damage to your health, according to the American Heart Association. It increases risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Instead of lighting up a cigarette, try these 10 Science-Backed Mental Hacks to Lose More Weight to keep your waist slim and your mind clear and stress-free.