Lunch-hour rush: 7 tips to eat healthier at work
It’s lunch hour once again! You have just about an hour to grab a bite and get back to work. Are you wondering what to each for lunch?
If you are on a quest for good nutrition or keen on eating healthy at work, here are seven effective steps to help you eat better and encourage your colleagues to do so as well.
1. Pick items with less fat, especially saturated fat
Start by picking items with less fat. Here are some tips:
- Limit or avoid crispy, deep golden brown and batter-fried items.
- Watch out for meat with visible fat layers and poultry with skin.
- Limit dishes with a layer of fat floating on the surface, or those cooked with cream.
- If you want to eat a one-dish noodle meal, go for clear noodle soups instead of fried noodles or noodles doused with a thick and oily sauce.
If you cannot “guesstimate” the nutritional content of a dish in front of you, ask the service staff how it is cooked. The exchange of information may help you determine if the dish you want to eat is high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or salt.
You should preferably buy and eat packaged food that carries the Healthier Choice Symbol. Alternatively, you can read the Nutrition Information Panel if it is included on the food packaging. Use the figures to pick items with less fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
If the product does not list the quantitative information on the label, then study the ingredient list. Beware of high-fat ingredients (for example, vegetable oils, shortening and hydrogenated oils), added sugar (sugar, honey and glucose) and added salt (sodium chloride and sea salt).
2. Ask for more vegetables
Always ask for more vegetables as you need to eat enough to meet your veggie goal for the day.
If you order economy rice, you can pick two different brightly coloured vegetables, including one green leafy vegetable such as spinach, chye sim or kailan. This will help you to get enough for the day and harness the nutritional benefits of variety.
When you order a one-dish noodle meal, specifically ask for more vegetables. Though you may need to pay a little more, it’s worth getting the extra veggies for the sake of your health.
However, you might want to steer clear of unhealthy vegetables such as sambal kangkong.
3. Limit food high in salt
A high salt intake is associated with elevated blood pressure. As you pick your foods, bear these tips in mind:
- Limit salty soups or dishes found soaking in sauces such as soya sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce.
- Steer clear of dishes that serve up preserved, cured or smoked food such as luncheon meat, sausages, ham, pickles and salted eggs.
- Ask the caterer to serve you a dish with less sauce and gravy, as these are usually high in salt.
4. End your meal with fresh fruit
Many of us like a sweet ending to every meal, so we unconsciously reach for dessert, candy or chocolate to satisfy our craving. These items are high in sugar, and sometimes, fat. If you indulge in them often, you will pile on unnecessary calories and gain weight.
The most nutritious sweet ending to a meal is fresh fruit. Most workplace canteens in Singapore usually offer a variety of cut fruit, so take advantage of the nicely peeled and portioned fruit to fulfil your daily fruit recommendation and satisfy your longing for something sweet.
5. Avoid sweetened drinks
If you have slipped into the habit of accompanying your lunch with a sweetened drink, then replace it with water. Not only will you save some money, you’ll also save plenty of calories, which would otherwise have added to your weight and your waistline.
You might also enjoy sipping on hot coffee or tea through the day to stay alert. If you drink your coffee and tea neat, that is fine, but if you like adding sugar, then you may want to cut that down. These additions can contribute to extra calories.
Gradually reduce the amount used and you will be surprised that your taste buds can be reconditioned to accept a less sweet taste.
Alternatively, you can look for beverages such as 3-in-1 coffee with the Healthier Choice Symbol, as these have less sugar than the regular offerings.
6. Go for balance
As lunch is one of the main meals of the day, try to select food items from each food group to balance your diet. Select a staple, vegetable, lean protein and fruit to nutritionally round off your meal.
If there aren’t many healthier options at the workplace, why not pack lunch from home? Place it in the refrigerator at work, reheat it in the microwave, and you can eat the nutritious meal that you’ve whipped up. Your health is worth all the effort.
7. Eat just enough
Exercise portion control to manage your weight. Do not indulge in large portions or extra servings. You can tell the canteen staff or food vendor to serve you less, rather than accept everything they put on your plate.
If you are bored or stressed at work, do not simply turn to food! Relax by talking to your colleagues, going for a short walk or working out at the gym.
Select a balanced lunch meal from the offerings, including a staple, vegetable, low-fat protein, and fruit. Opt for dishes cooked healthily to make them low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar.
Make an effort to include more wholegrains, fruit and vegetables to up the fibre and nutrient density of your meal. If you cannot get a healthy meal during lunch hour despite all your efforts, pack a nutritious lunch and bring it from home.
Even if you are tempted, do not overeat. Have your regular portion on your plate, and avoid eating or drinking any extras.
This is an updated version of an archived article. The original article, published on HealthHub, can be found here.
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