Choose your food carefully, don’t eat at your desk – and try for a quick burst of exercise
Make your own lunch
It is cheaper and you know what is in it. Healthy leftovers from the night before, bulked up with extra vegetables or a salad, can be a good option, says Gillian Killiner, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association. Shop-bought convenience food “should be the last resort”, she says. “It can be laden with pro-inflammatory ingredients, especially cheap vegetable oils and fillers, which do not provide long-acting energy, so leave you hungry and unsatisfied.”
Don’t eat at your desk
Enjoy your food somewhere peaceful, if possible, perhaps outdoors. If you eat at your desk, you will probably carry on working rather than focusing on your food, which could lead to weight gain. “The receptor from the gut to brain will not work optimally and leaves you feeling unsatisfied and reaching for more without realising what you have already consumed,” says Killiner. Sitting hunched over, eating mindlessly without chewing well can also cause or exacerbate gastrointestinal issues.
Maximise your workout
An hour (if you are lucky) may not sound long enough to travel, change, workout, shower, eat and be back at your desk, but it is possible to exercise at lunchtime. Hollie Grant, a personal trainer and the founder of Pilates PT, says high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is “the quickest way to get fit in the shortest amount of time. It’s short bursts of hard work; you can easily do a HIIT workout in 20 minutes.” You don’t need a gym – you can turn a run into a HIIT workout by alternating 30-second sprints with 30 seconds of jogging or walking. You could do the same on a bike, or in a pool. Just remember to warm up and cool down – and to eat afterwards, not before, says Grant.
It is best to drink water often and in small amounts, says Killiner. “Too much liquid at meals can cause some people to have acid reflux, which can cause pain and bloating.” About 250ml of water should be enough with a meal, but Killiner suggests drinking 500ml about 30 minutes before lunch. “It assists with reducing hunger, allowing more control in selecting healthier options when meals come round.”
Avoid the post-lunch slump
That feeling of wanting a nap – or a chocolate bar – shortly after lunch can be staved off with better food choices. The slump can be made worse with carb-heavy meals, such as lots of bread, pasta or potatoes. Killiner recommends instead “eating nutritious choices such as white or oily fish and seafood, brown rice, oat cakes, quinoa and a variety of colourful vegetables. Sprinkle with some seeds or nuts.”