How to Navigate a Business Lunch Without Blowing your Healthy Eating Habits

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You’ve been making healthy food choices and feeling great. But the big meeting on Thursday is now going to be over lunch and you need to figure out how to stay on track. Here are some tips on keeping that Business Lunch a healthy one.

If dining out, skip the appetizers and pass on the breadbasket. Choose a simple, protein-based main dish, preferably baked, grilled or steamed (avoid breaded and fried) and ask if you can replace the starchy sides with double vegetables. A few well-chosen requests like ‘dressing on the side’ or ‘light on the sauce’ can painlessly make a big difference calorie-wise. Just try not to overdo the special instructions – if you need to provide lengthy directions to make it healthy it’s probably better to just choose something else. 

Some restaurants offer smaller portions at lunchtime, or make the decision to eat only half of the meal and bring the rest home to a family member.

For a catered lunch your best defense will be smart choices and portion control. Opt for reasonable helpings of chicken or fish dishes instead beef or pasta, avoid starchy sides and load up on the veggies (as long as they’re not drowning in sauce). If there’s salad it should take up a generous portion of your plate.  Fill your plate once (no going back for seconds) and stay away from the dessert trays. 

In all cases, eat slowly – enjoy your food. Take breaks to talk. Not only is it more professional to not be seen wolfing down your lunch (or discussing business around a mouth full of food), but you’ll likely find that you eat less overall. We’re full long before our brain realizes – slow down and allow time for everything to synch up. Start with the healthiest items on your plate and stop when you’ve eaten about 80% of your meal – you might be surprised to soon discover you’re not even hungry for the rest. 

It’s easiest to eat healthfully when co-workers are aware and can be supportive, but you may prefer not to draw attention to your personal health goals. ‘Saving room’ casually gets you out of starters and simply saying that you’re full is a nonchalant way to turn down seconds, multiple courses and dessert.

Believe it or not, showing a little restraint with your meal can actually have a positive impact on how your colleagues see you. Smart, sensible choices eaten in moderation allow you to come across as calm, cool and in control, helping more than just your waistline.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack April 19, 2018 at 8:45 am

I always try not to order something too messy.

Lois April 19, 2018 at 9:55 am

I going the boring route. Salad every work lunch.

Phyllis April 19, 2018 at 9:56 am

Be cautious of how much you not only eat, but drink. No one wants to be around sloshed coworkers.

Laura April 20, 2018 at 12:26 pm

These are some good tips. It also helps not to go into the situation starving. I don’t know why people categorize pasta and starch as unhealthy though. As long as it doesn’t have a bunch of cheese, meat or oil on it, I think it’s usually a healthy option.

Elizabeth April 23, 2018 at 3:09 pm

I find it helpful to check the menu out before I do. That way I can take my time selecting something that works for me.

Cathy April 24, 2018 at 3:26 pm

These are all great tips, restraint is key. If I know there is an outing or catered food I mentally prepare for what I will and will not eat.

Connie April 30, 2018 at 2:36 pm

One can never go wrong with a salad. It’s usually the safest option.

Mary Watson May 8, 2018 at 10:59 am

Good suggestions. I have found that most restaurants today are offering healthy alternatives.

Allison May 8, 2018 at 3:02 pm

I talk through work lunches so I hardly even get through half my meal anyway. That is one way to do it….

Collin May 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm

I try to scope out the menu before we go so I can make a smart, healthy choice (and not something too pricey if I am not paying). Work lunches are stressful.

Julie May 15, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Very good suggestions for eating out and the catered business lunch as well. And it’s always a good idea to slow down instead of racing to finish your food. You’ll feel more satisfied if you give yourself time to actually taste what you’re eating.

Maryanne May 15, 2018 at 3:18 pm

So many restaurants now offer salads with a choice of healthy protein toppings, like grilled salmon or chicken and that makes a hearty lunch. Soup and a salad is a good choice, too if you watch out for the sodium content of the soup.

Susan May 15, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Salad bars are a favorite of mine for lunch out of the office. Stay away from the potato, macaroni & cole slaw salads. They are loaded with mayo. Opt for all the greens and reds on display and dress the veggies sparingly. Please don’t drown them in fattening toppings.

Kay May 15, 2018 at 3:27 pm

A baked potato is better than mashed only if you don’t add scads of butter. Sour cream in moderation is fine. If you can’t do that, it’s better not to get any potato.

Aimee July 11, 2018 at 12:32 pm

I also like to keep in mind how difficult the meal is too eat. I want to be healthy and I also don’t want to look sloppy slurping down soup or something.

Norma September 19, 2019 at 11:52 am

Salad with dressing on the side!

Domnick September 23, 2019 at 2:53 pm

I find that going bold with your order really leaves an impression with your coworkers, get that chicken but ask for it super spicy if you think you can handle it. Throw out that power move

Natalie September 23, 2019 at 3:21 pm

I love these tips. I prefer eating anything I like but just control my portions. I also prefer to eat less messy foods like finger foods which also helps appearing professional. No one wants to see finger licking during a work lunch.

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