7 tips for tackling workplace dining: lunch

Work near a shopping centre, food court or cafeteria?

Do you buy your lunch rather than take it from home? Do you struggle to make good choices once your senses are hit with the sights and smells surrounding you?

Sound like you? Well read on to discover some straightforward tips to keep your eating choices healthy.

The other day, circumstances dictated that I lunch at a major shopping centre's food court. There was already a crowd dining on the usual suspects of chips, burgers and muffins but right on 12.30 pm, more hungry people started moving in like locusts swarming over a wheat crop.

The people were almost mesmerized as they shuffled between eateries sourcing things to tempt them, something to eat.

At the tables, the eating pace was frantic. And even though diners seemed more intent on eating than talking, the noise was deafening. Perhaps it was the combo of background music, clanging kitchens and crying children?

Food courts are not the most relaxing place to have lunch. Some would also argue that they lose points because healthy foods are few and far between but once armed with a few tips, you will discover that it's really not that hard to get something to eat and drink to suit your dietary needs.

It starts with a little forward strategic thinking.

  1. One day when you are not hungry, check out the usual lunchtime food outlets and make a list of at least 10 items that suit your special dietary needs. To decide on your personal top 10 menu items, you could also pick up nutrition guides from the eateries or check out food company websites to study the nutritional profiles or speak with your dietitian. If you can't find 10 items then you really need to eat somewhere else or find a supermarket where you will always find healthy smart choices.
  2. Now tackle your drink choices. This list will be really small unless you want to gain weight.
    The best choices are water, green tea, black tea or black coffee, unflavoured soda water or plain mineral water. Next would be tea or coffee with a splash of milk, no sugars. Forget the skinny chino, chai tea, sugared soft drinks and pearl drinks.
  3. Print out your lists and keep them in your wallet, in your desk drawer or make mini poster of them to place on your cubicle/office wall. Whenever you look at the lists, feel very proud because you have built a tool that will help you to stay healthy and feeling good. Feel extra proud of yourself when you use the lists to choose lunch.
  4. About 30 minutes before your lunch break is due, look at your list. Choose two items that tickle your fancy on the day plus one drink.
    It is very important to make a choice before lunchtime arrives and before your hunger overrides your rational brain. Choosing half an hour early also allows you to place your order ahead of the rush if the food outlet take pre-orders - there's no turning back with this option!
  5. Choosing ahead of time is important because if you leave the choice until you're starving and in the food court or eatery, then hunger may rule and ruin your decisions.
    Once you hit the eatery, look at your two choices and select one item.
    Do not waiver from your decision and do not add anything extra except your drink.
  6. Get out of there! Head out of the food precinct towards a pleasant quiet and non-foodie environment.
  7. Enjoy your choice with slow and thoughtful bites. If you stay in the eatery area, there is a strong chance that you will gobble your food down in a hurry without appreciation. You may even make a rash decision to select something extra to finish.

Okay. Over to you. Start work on your own lunch list to keep lunch healthier.