Eating lunch at your desk is as American as scarfing down a hot dog (or two) at a baseball game. You know you shouldn’t do it, and yet 62 percent of professionals eat their midday meal al desko, according to a recent report.
The sad desk lunch—wilted salad greens, a soggy turkey sandwich—has become so ubiquitous that it even inspired a Tumblr page filled with images of depressing desk lunches that are a little too real (raise your hand if you’ve ever pillaged the office pantry to concoct a salad dressing).
In an ideal world, you would take an hour for lunch and step outside the office. But for those days when you’re stuck at your desk, there are things you can do to spruce up your midday meal. Here, Freshly staffers—including chefs, nutritionists, and culinary pros—share their tricks for making lunch a little less depressing and a lot more delicious.
Stock your (desk drawer) pantry
“I keep a few things at my desk to zhuzh up whatever I’m eating: Extra virgin olive oil and flakey sea salt, which make even the simplest meal feel luxurious; pumpkin and sunflower seeds to sprinkle on salads; parmesan crisps to snack on; and dried fruit like mango and sour cherries to eat as a side or for dessert.”
— Claire King, Executive Producer of Video Content
Plate your meal
“I eat lunch in a bowl (versus my Tupperware) because it’s more visually appealing and that makes my lunch more enjoyable. Eating with silverware instead of plastic utensils helps, too!”
— Cynthia Kalfa, Director of Menu Development
Liven things up
“Throwback to your youth by using a fun lunch bag, lunchbox or those really cute little bento box kits. Go a step further by including a sticky note (like my mom used to do) with an inspirational quote, mini bottles of condiments like Tabasco (they’re adorable!) and fun utensils (I used to have a fork that doubled as a pen!). I’ll also listen to a custom playlist because music helps transport me to my happy place.”
— Rachel Waynberg, Meal Innovation Manager
Be more mindful
“Even when I have to eat at my desk, I try to take a meditative breath and disconnect from work so that I can eat more mindfully, which helps me not overeat or poorly digest my food. I pay attention to my lunch, noticing the flavor of a sweet potato, the color of my lettuce or the crunch of one of our snacks crumbled on top of a salad.”
— Emily Buckley, Senior Director of Meals
Spruce up your salad
“I never eat a boring salad: I dress it up with fresh and roasted veggies, add protein like grilled chicken or salmon, and top it with fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro for additional health benefits and flavor. A protein- and veggie-rich plate like this gives me sustained energy throughout the day versus a poor meal choice that could derail my afternoon. When I’m on the go, I grab a bowl—like our new Better Bowls—for a quick yet balanced lunch.”
— Dr. Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS, Head Nutrionist
“I try to read something thought-provoking (usually an inspirational article I saved from Digg, Medium or the New York Times) instead of work-related. It gives me a break from thinking about work and feels like a nice little breather.”
— Rachel Abrams, Senior Director of Innovation
Step away from your desk—seriously
“Sad desk lunches in front of your computer can lead to mindless overeating, which can contribute to sneaky weight gain over time. So I try to eat away from my desk and avoid multitasking. Not only does this keep me mindful of my hunger and fullness cues, but it also allows me to fully enjoy my meal.”
— Emily Navarro, RDN, Senior Manager of Health and Wellness Programs