Many people don’t bother about a lunch break and eat at their workstations. But they end up paying a heavy price for it.
If you’re reading this at your desk, sandwich in one hand and pen in the other, it seems you’re not alone. Don’t even bother with a lunch break, eating at our workstations. But are we paying the price with our health?
Eating quickly is bad
“Eating quickly can be detrimental to our health for a variety of reasons,” says nutritionist Shona Wilkinson. “It’s important that we sit up straight while eating, rather than being hunched over our desk, and it’s also important to eat slowly.” Sitting up straight improves your digestion, which reduces bloating and discomfort.
Chew your food well
Chewing each mouthful slowly and thoroughly also releases more nutrients from our food, leaving us healthier, whereas swallowing half chewed chunks of food causes undigested particles to ferment in the gut, causing more bloating. However, thanks to the recession, the average person is busier and more stressed than ever, so a leisurely lunch is a luxury many of us can’t afford.
Don’t eat in a hurry
If lunchtime is always rushed, you can undo some of the damage by buying or preparing the right meal. “When we’re in a hurry, we’re more likely to reach for quick, processed foods that are full of fat and sugar,” says Shona. “But sugary or high-carbohydrate lunches will cause a 4pm energy slump. They’ll give you a quick burst of energy but then you’ll experience a rapid fall in blood sugar levels, leaving you tired and lethargic and craving sugar in the form of biscuits and chocolate.”
Protein, on the other hand, will slow down the release of sugar from carbs into your bloodstream and leave you fuller for longer with more energy.
Taking a lunch break is important
Taking your time over meals gives your body the opportunity to release cholecystokinin, or CCK. This hormone is a “full up” signal that allows our brains to register we’re no longer hungry and to stop eating. If we eat too quickly, we don’t register fullness, which can cause us to overeat.
Dos and don’ts
1. Don’t drink your calories. Seemingly healthy juice drinks can contain as much sugar as a doughnut. Stick to water.
2. Don’t eat in front of a screen. According to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we consume more calories when we eat at a computer or watching TV. Dr Connie Diekman, who worked on the study, advised: “Eat, then look at your computer. Look away, then eat a few more bites.” Better still, just focus on your lunch for at least 20 minutes.
3. Have healthy desk snacks. Eating something small and healthy between breakfast and lunch will stop you craving stodgy or fatty foods. Try almonds and/or an apple.
4. Skip morning coffee. “Too much caffeine floods your body with the stress hormone cortisol,” says A-list trainer Dalton Wong. “This can lead to sugar cravings later on. Stick to one or two coffees. Better still, green tea increases metabolism and is full of antioxidants.”
5. Don’t drink while eating. “Drink water before or after meals,” says nutritionist Henrietta Nortona adding, “Fluids with food can slow your digestive system, which can cause bloating. Drink five minutes before or after a meal.”