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What You Need to Know About Eating at Your Desk

About 62% of Americans regularly eat at their desks.

Reasons vary: saving money by eating in, taking a break with a good article, squeezing in some extra work. No matter why you do it, many people wonder: Is eating at your desk good or bad for you?

The answer has a lot to do with how and why you’re doing it.

Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Potential benefits


On particularly busy days, it may be more stressful to stop a productive work session to eat than it would be to “play through.” It’s not something that should happen every day, but every once in a while, it’s okay.

Break time

If you eat at your desk to take a mental break from work, it can help you relax and refresh. Watch a video or read an article you bookmarked — especially something light and fun — to recharge your mind for a productive afternoon.


If you plan ahead, eating at your desk can help ensure you’re making nutritious choices at lunch.

Most people don’t realize that a typical meal out has around 1,200 calories, which is far more than needed.

The daily recommended intake for women is 2,000 calories and 2,500 for men. Soups, salads, fruits and vegetables are great things to bring from home. There are also myriad healthy frozen food choices (low-calorie, organic) these days that offer variety and ease. Make sure to check the nutrition information so you know how your lunch fits into your daily totals.

Cost savings

Eating out at lunch can run you anywhere from $10-20, while bringing your lunch or eating a frozen meal typically costs only about $5-7.

Potential drawbacks


Mindless eating is one of many things contributing to America’s growing obesity problem. By eating while preoccupied with a screen or spreadsheet, your mind isn’t properly processing how much food you’re eating, which can lead to higher calorie intake. Eat mindfully, focusing on what you’re enjoying about the food, to help you recognize when you feel full and leave you more satisfied.


Humans weren’t built to sit all day, so more of that at lunch isn’t great, especially if your job keeps you sedentary most of the time. Find an offsite place to eat — walk to a nearby restaurant or brown-bag it at a park — to sneak a little activity into lunchtime.


If you haven’t planned ahead to eat at your desk, you may end up grabbing whatever is around. That might mean vending machine options that are high in saturated fat, or leftover pizza or cake from the break room. Those less-healthy choices can quickly add up to hundreds of extra calories.


For some people, staying inside in the same location all day is detrimental to creative thinking. Getting up and changing your surroundings, even for a few moments during the day, can refresh your body and mind, and may lead to a breakthrough on that project you’ve been struggling with.


Eating away from your desk makes you more likely to socialize, which is good for happiness, health, and camaraderie at the office.

One study from MIT found that office workers who socialize may be up to 10 percent more productive than those who don’t.

Other studies show workplace satisfaction is higher if you eat with your colleagues.

Considerate coworking

Are you the person heating up a bag of Brussels sprouts in the office every day? You may be annoying your coworkers without realizing it. The same goes for loud slurping of soup or crunching of chips, which can be frustrating if people are meeting with clients or on a conference call. Be aware of your surroundings and adjust accordingly.


Eating at your desk can create a mess, and bits of food left in a keyboard or on a telephone can breed bad bacteria. Studies estimate that some people’s keyboards are one of the dirtiest things at work or home, so if you do eat at your desk, make sure to clean it frequently.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville). As Senior Editor at Parthenon Publishing, she is a writer, editor and social media strategist on projects ranging from Better Tennessee magazine to Unsung Nashville.

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