Easy Ways to Have a Healthy Office Lunch

woman at desk
Getting away from your desk is the first step to take if you want to have a healthy office lunch. Image: © [2009] Jupiterimages Corporation

Lunch at the office doesn't have to be cause for a dietary disaster. Just take a few of these pointers into work with you (along with a "brown bag" lunch a few days a week!) and you'll be just fine. Here are my guidelines on how to have a healthy office lunch.

Take a Breather

It is not uncommon for many workers to eat at their desks these days. But eating at your keyboard will leave you feeling unsatisfied with your meal.

Take just 15 to 20 minutes to relax and concentrate on your meal; you will feel sated and less likely to give in to temptation (read: the vending machine) later on in the day.

Take It With You

One of the best ways you can stay in control of your eating choices at work is to brown bag as often as possible. Some of my favorite work-friendly, portable lunch choices include "veggie" chili or high-fiber soup with whole-grain crackers (My pick: Amy's Kitchen Low-Sodium Vegetarian Chili) or a tuna salad "kit" I assemble myself with low-fat mayo, chopped egg whites, a packet of pickle relish and some tuna in small containers.

When I bring microwave soup, stew or pasta I like to make them heartier so they keep hunger at bay all afternoon: I pour them into another microwave-safe bowl and add an extra canned veggie or canned beans (after draining and rinsing). If I have fresh produce on-hand, I have baby carrots as an appetizer and fruit as dessert along with whole-grain bread or crackers.

Accrue Cold Assets

If you have a freezer available to you, you are ahead of the game: Frozen meals provide instant portion control and there are a variety of diet-friendly choices available from many makers including Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine and Amy's Organic -- they feature whole grains, white meat chicken and vegetarian options.

But watch out for frozen meals that are high in sodium as they can cause bloating. (Look for fewer than 800 mg. on the label.) And, it's smart to add a salad if your favorite variety includes a vegetable that is a little on the paltry side.

Manage Meeting Eating

If you have to travel or attend a lunchtime meeting, do some research on the nearest eateries to the meeting locale so you can suggest healthy restaurants instead of going to whatever eatery is closest. If in doubt, ordering the soup and salad bar combo is often a smart choice at many casual dining restaurants.

Be Smart at the Sandwich Shop

As long as you avoid high-fat sides like potato salad and condiments like mayo, you can order almost any lean meat sandwich on whole-grain bread and be on-target with your calorie budget. It's also a good idea to make swaps that make your meal healthier: If you use hummus and avocado to replace high-fat fixings like cheese and mayo with healthy fat and fiber, you'll get a nutrition boost. Plus, you can add veggies like peppers and cucumbers for crunch and even more filling fiber.

Make Fast Food Diet-Friendly

Fast food isn't off-limits just because you want to lose weight! With a little planning, you can enjoy something at almost any fast food restaurant without blowing your calorie budget.

 If in doubt, order a small, plain hamburger; they usually have fewer calories than a fried chicken sandwich.

Work Out During Your Work Day

In addition to eating smart at the office, working in some activity can keep at-work weight-gain at bay. Wear a pedometer and aim for a set number steps -- walk at lunch to get to your goal. Standing up and walking more really adds up so you may want to phone and e-mail less. Make it an office-wide challenge: Lobby for at-work fitness contests, in-house classes or after-work walking clubs.