11 Ways to Get Healthy at Lunch

Use your lunch hour for something other than scarfing down a salad.
Published November 6, 2015

Put that lunch break to work for you! Whether it's 30 minutes or a full hour, chances are your lunch break is the only time you'll get to yourself all day. Use it! Instead of managing your e-mail while you nibble on that turkey sub, improve your health.

Got a lot of time? Get moving! Use the midday hour to burn calories. Barely have any time? Concentrate instead on mental well being and increasing your energy for the rest of the afternoon. Here are some expert suggestions on how to put the kibosh on keyboard crumbs and pump up your energy level.

Got 45 Minutes?

Put one foot in front of the other. "Walking is free, and you already know how to do it," says Samantha Heller, RD, senior clinical nutritionist. Drive to a nearby high school or park with a co-worker, and spend 15 minutes briskly walking the track or trails. Make a weekly lunchtime commitment.

Be a video star. Why let a rainy day get in the way of exercise? Bring an exercise or yoga video to play in a free conference room, suggests Leslie Bonci, RD. Grab a couple of friends to join in, and enjoy brown-bag lunches together afterward.

Step it up a notch. "Pedometers are a fantastic incentive to get more exercise," says Keli Roberts, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. Aim for 10,000 steps a day. Choose a lunch destination that's a good 15-minute walk from your office and you're well on your way. Plus, the walk will break up your afternoon, and it may even quell your appetite.

Got 30 Minutes?

Engage your senses. "Everyone is entitled to nourishment without aggravation," says Bonci. So shut down your computer, put the phone on voicemail and focus on what you're eating. "You need to see, smell and taste it. If you don't take the time to enjoy it, you'll be looking for a chocolate bar later."

Take yourself to the cleaners. Instead of running errands in your car on the way home, run them on foot during lunch, Bonci suggests. Visit the drugstore, stationers and cleaners near your office. You'll tackle your to-do list—and vaporize calories.

Drink up! "I use my lunch hour as a way to catch up on my water intake," says Roberts. "I try to finish two 1.5 litre bottles every day."

Got 15 Minutes?

Pump it up. "It is possible to exercise at the office without taking up a lot of space or calling a lot of attention to oneself," Bonci insists. Her favourite way to pump up at work? Do bicep curls by looping one end of an elastic resistance band under your foot and slowly pulling the other end up with one arm.

Create your own decompression zone. Clear your head by closing your office door (if you have one), slipping on headphones, shutting your eyes and playing music that soothes you for 15 minutes, suggests France Largeman, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Got 5 Minutes?

Breathe easy. Anyone who's ever found herself face to face with a vending machine as a deadline approaches knows that stress can lead to mindless munching. Put yourself in the mindset to make healthy choices. Start your lunch hour by taking methodical, calming deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling to the count of five, repeating five times. "Deep breaths tell your body that everything will be okay," says Heller.

Roll with it. By the time lunch approaches, odds are you've already spent three hours staring into a computer monitor or talking on the phone—neither of which is doing your alignment any good. "Your shoulders are not supposed to be attached to your ears, your chin should not be resting on your breast bone," Heller says. Take some time to restore balance with some simple neck and shoulder rolls.

Make like a rabbit. Before you nibble a bit of your lunch, whip out a bag of carrots and some low-calorie salad dressing. Make your way through a portion of the bag—at least a cup. You'll make a serious dent on your veggie quotient for the day and on your appetite, too.