Skipping lunch or ordering takeaways at work is passé. Thankfully! What’s making a comeback at lunch hour in offices (though it’ll take some more numbers before it can be called a trend) is the old-fashioned lunch dabba, especially in workplaces where the canteen is just a spruced up dhaba at best or junk food joint at worst.
“Over the years I have realized that cafeteria food is usually loaded with more oil, sugar and fat, so it is invariably unhealthy. Also I have a problem regulating the portion sizes. Sometimes hygiene in the canteen is an issue too, which is why I now take lunch from home,” says Gaurav Wadhwa, 30, a Delhi-based marketing manager with a multinational firm. Minakshi Mishra, director, HR, at Target Sourcing Services, Delhi, agrees. Mishra believes people are switching to home tiffins because canteen food, over a period of time, tends to be repetitive. How long can one have the same fare?” she asks, adding that “in our office we never got round to setting up an office cafeteria as 90% of the staff showed an inclination towards getting food from home. I personally also feel that a dabba packed from home works out as a much more viable proposition for health. And today well-being is way up on most people’s to-do lists, at least in the urban context.”
The age-old ‘dabba’: Lunch is indispensable since long hours without food can leave you drained of energy. By Harikrishna Katragadda/ Mint
To nudge you to organize your noon nosh from home, we tell you why you should never skip lunch and suggest five ways to spruce up your “ghar ka dabba”.
Why lunch is a must
“Lunch is not dispensable at work simply because long hours without food also means no energy to function and the work capacity comes down. Secondly missing lunch may also lead to gastritis and if ignored it may eventually lead to peptic ulcer and other gastric problems,” warns Jyothi Prasad.
And if you are skipping lunch to lose weight, then stop. This does not work at all. “Every time you eat, your metabolic rate speeds up by 20-30% for the next 2 hours, but if you skip meals you miss out on this. Although it might seem that cutting out a whole meal’s worth of calories would lead to weight loss, in fact this strategy rarely works,” explains Prasad.
“Most people who skip lunch at work end up increasing the number of calories they eat at other meals in the day—usually the evening teatime in office—by almost the same amount, sometimes even more. Obviously when you go to a meal overly hungry (because you’ve skipped it earlier), you tend to eat rapidly, and much more than you otherwise would have,” says Shachi Sohal, chief dietitian at the BL Kapur Memorial Hospital, New Delhi. “And most often they end up eating wrong food like, say, the patty from the cafeteria or ‘samosa’ from the shop below—which, though small in size, adds up to a substantial number of calories,” she adds.
Another problem with skipping lunch is that it may lead to low blood sugar, which again can cause sudden hunger pangs, leading to bingeing and/or food cravings. Either way, it’s bad for health. “Yes, most often coffee takes the place of lunch to quell hunger pangs, and too much caffeine is not good for the stomach and it also increases nervous excitement. It also hinders the absorption of many nutrients,” says Prasad.
“The right rule to follow is a nutritionally balanced breakfast, a substantial lunch and a light dinner. A balanced lunch should account for 35-40% of your daily caloric intake,” says Sohal . For instance, a 25-year-old woman who is moderately active and consumes around 1,600 calories per day (in three meals plus one light late-afternoon snack) can take as many as 550-650 calories at lunch. Similarly, a man with a daily consumption of about 2,000 calories can take about 700-750 calories at lunch. “Ideally it should not be but if lunchtime for you is invariably a hurried affair, you can then lower the calories to around 400 calories and the rest can be spilt into two snacks—a mid–morning and 6pm snack,” advises Prasad.
The right ingredients
Go for a combination of foods that are high in fibre, low in fat and have enough low GI carbohydrates (to provide long-lasting energy and more satiety) to help avoid a mid-afternoon slump and keep the mind and body energized. Ideally lunch should be split into 50- 60% carbs, 20-30% protein, and 10-15% fat. Try to include a variety of foods to cover the maximum number of essential nutrients. After all, lunch is supposed to provide one-third of your nutrient requirements.
• To avoid feeling excessively full, keep the portions small.
• To prevent yawning at your desk, avoid sugary foods like candy, because these could rapidly increase the level of insulin, which then increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which causes drowsiness.
• Go easy on carbohydrates (carbs increase the relative concentration of L-tryptophan and serotonin in the blood, which makes us sleepy). So keep your carbs (and specifically high-GI, or glycaemic index, carb foods) down.
• Too much fat increases the feeling of fullness/satiety sooner, and makes one feel sluggish.
Illustration by Raajan/Mint
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