Work lunches are a minefield during summer. We know – from personal experience – that a mere two-minute trip to the local sandwich shop can turn even the most composed person into a sweaty mess and, while we at Time Out love takeaways, they can be a calorie-filled nightmare – chowing down a manakish at your desk every day will do your waistline no good. Keen to avoid the Dubai stone? Read on to find out how to make healthy choices to combat the battle of the bulge.
Be prepared This isn’t the Boy Scout motto for nothing. If you wake up at 8am and need to be out the door at 8.15am, there’s no way you’ll have time to pack a healthy lunch, so you’ll need to think in advance. Dedicate time on Saturdays to planning your lunches, then visit the supermarket to get stocked up. Buy turkey slices, salad and wholegrain bread, which you can store in the freezer to keep it fresh (we know bread never lasts longer than two days here). Take two slices out of the freezer each morning to make your sandwich, and by lunchtime the bread will be defrosted. When cooking dinner, why not make an extra portion to eat for lunch the next day? Just be sure to pack it before you sit down to eat, otherwise you’ll be in danger of gobbling the whole thing. Double portions are a diet no-no.
Don’t load up on carbs You’re not about to run a marathon, you’re just fuelling yourself to sit at a desk for the rest of the day. ‘If you eat big meals at lunch, you get tired, because your digestive system has to work harder,’ explains Kathleen Farren from Zest 4 Life. ‘Choose salads, soups, wholegrain sandwiches and wraps with healthy fillings and also always make sure you have a healthy breakfast at home so you’re not too hungry at lunch.’ Far too many people still skip breakfast, yet this essential meal will set you up for the day, as well as making sure you don’t crave sugary snacks mid-morning. And no, a curry puff picked up from Emarat at 8am on the way to work doesn’t count as a healthy breakfast.
Step away from the desk Yes, you’re busy at work, but shovelling food in while staying stationary is dangerous in more ways than one. As Kathleen points out, ‘It takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognise that you’re full, so you need to eat mindfully and chew well. Also, eating while stressed [while checking emails and catching up on work] hinders digestion, because the stress diverts your energy away from the process of digestion.’ If that wasn’t motivation enough, most desks don’t get cleaned too often, so are a breeding ground for bacteria. We’ve all heard statistics about the amount of germs lurking on your phone, yet keyboards are even worse, and eating on top of them only worsens the situation. We recommend finding a different spot in your office to eat – the canteen, a quiet corner or somewhere on a different floor (make sure you take the stairs for an extra exercise boost). Just five minutes of movement and a change of scenery will refresh your mind. Stay snacking ‘Try snacking on fruit and nuts throughout the day,’ suggests Kathleen. While it seems counter-intuitive, keeping calories coming in during the day will keep your blood sugar from dropping and will therefore stop you from storing fat. Just be sure to snack on nutritious healthy things and to cut meal portions down to compensate for the grazing. Try pre-cooked broccoli, raw almonds (Elle MacPherson swears by them) and green tea instead of coffee – it will still give you a caffeine buzz, but will also speed up your metabolism. For more tips from Kathleen, visit www.zest4life.eu (050 227 3153) .
Three healthy meals delivered to your desk
Quinoa tabbouleh salad at Circle Café The quinoa grain is a slow-release protein, so you won’t be loading up on carbs, yet you’ll feel full all day (the Incas swore by it). The salad also boasts cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, mixed leaves and parsley, so is rich in antioxidants. If it sounds too insubstantial for your whole lunch, you can add grilled chicken. Dhs38. Circle Café, Dubai Media City or Jumeirah 2 (04 391 5170)
Caribbean-style chicken at KCal Protein: check. Vegetables: check. And the best thing is that KCal lists the calorie counts of each dish on its website, so you can be safe inthe knowledge that your midday meal comes with 37g of protein and 281 calories. Dhs34. KCal, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, www.kcalhealthyfastfood.com (04 447 3844)
Small superbiotic pizza at NKD Pizza This passable portion is topped with artichoke, spinach, bell pepper, garlic, mushrooms, red onion and coriander, and the crust contains 10 grains. Dhs29. NKD Pizza, Dubai Marina, www.nkdpizza.com (04 453 4313)