Do you find yourself eating at your desk at work more and more often? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that at least 83% of Americans eat at their desk several times a week. While many of us would prefer to have lunch with a friend or at least go out for lunch, we often find ourselves “too busy” to do so.
So is eating at your desk healthy? When we eat at our desk, we often are totally unaware of just what and how much we are eating. We’re not focused on the food as we answer emails, sort papers and answer phone calls. But you can make healthy choices by bringing your lunch from home and avoiding take-out lunches which can tend to have excess calories, fat, and sodium and are often lacking in nutrients. Some healthy lunch choices could include:
- A salad with added protein and fiber – some leftover chicken, healthy beans and/or nuts.
- A whole grain wrap filled with veggies.
- Homemade or low-sodium prepared soup that you can heat in the microwave.
- Yogurt with added fruit and granola.
- A sweet potato or fresh vegetables that you can pop into the microwave.
- Water with a slice of lemon, lime or orange.
- For a sweet ending to your lunch, fresh fruit makes a great dessert.
If you are bringing your lunch from home, use an insulated lunch bag with a freezer pack to keep your food cold until you can put it in the refrigerator at work. You want to be sure and wash your hands before eating your lunch and clean your desk top. According to an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics survey only 36 percent of survey respondents said they clean their work areas, desktop, mouse and keyboard on a weekly basis; 64 percent said they do so on a monthly basis or less.
A 2007 study from the University of Arizona found that desktops have 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat!
So, if you are going to eat at your desk, take a few minutes to disinfect the area before opening your food. Once you start eating, avoid touching your phone, mouse,
etc. as you could be constantly re-contaminating your food. You might also use a placemat or at least a paper towel under your lunch for added protection!
To answer the question, eating at your desk is not the healthiest activity! Not only are you likely to eat more unhealthy foods, you are risking contaminating your food and potentially becoming ill. Take a little time for yourself at lunch time – walk to the kitchen or break room, invite a co-worker to join you and enjoy that healthy lunch you have prepared!
Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Treber.email@example.com