Five mistakes you’re making at lunch that could contribute to weight gain

Our dietitian highlights five common lunchtime mistakes.

Trying to lose weight and having no luck? How you spend your lunch hour could be a contributing factor.

To give you a helping hand, here are five common lunchtime mistakes that can lead to weight gain overtime – and how to combat them.

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1. You buy your lunch everyday

This is a no-brainer, but if you’re heading to the food court every day, chances are you’re going overboard on calories. Obviously, deep fried fests like McDonalds and KFC aren’t the best choices – but you should exercise caution around supposedly healthier takeaways like sandwiches, soups and salads, too.

These foods can pack a surprising amount of calories, thanks to generous serving sizes and additions like mayonnaise, cream and avocado. My advice is to bring a packed lunch from home every day and save trips to the food court for an occasional treat (read: once or twice a month).

2. You sit down to lunch when you’re absolutely *starving*

Do you have lunch at 3pm when you’re ready-to-eat-your-arm-off hangry? That’s got to change. You see, when you’re over the top hungry, you eat far more than you actually need to satisfy your grumbling tummy. Instead of a well-portioned meal that contains 400 calories, for example, you might eat double and all of a sudden, you’ve consumed half a day’s worth of calories in five minutes. So, make a concerted effort to schedule a lunch break at a reasonable hour each day – and actually stick to it.

3. You skip lunch

You might think going without food altogether will help with weight loss – and while you are aiming for an energy deficit, going too far will backfire. Refer to point two above: when you’re excessively hungry, it’s easy to overeat at your next meal.

It’s also easier to make unhealthy choices throughout the afternoon when your blood sugars are dropping and your body is in search of a quick energy fix. Helloooo chocolate! Instead of skipping meals, I’d recommend regular main meals and snacks with a focus on sensible portion sizes.

4. You’re choosing the wrong accompanying fluid

Do you wash your lunch down with a glass of water every day? Or perhaps a can of soft drink or bottle of juice is more your flavour? If your go-to is the latter, you could be adding hundreds of unnecessary extra calories to your daily intake – and that’s a sure-fire way to gain weight over time. A 375mL can of Coca Cola, for example, contains 160 calories, while a 600mL bottle of orange juice contains 195 calories. In contrast, water is calorie free, so it should always be your sip of choice.

5. Your lunch isn’t balanced

A pile of lettuce leaves and a can of tuna might seem like a healthy lunch – but in reality, it’s an incomplete, unbalanced meal. A truly healthy bite to eat contains all of the following:

  • Lean protein from meat, seafood, eggs, legumes or tofu
  • Quality carbs, like sweet potato, corn, wholegrain bread, quinoa, brown rice or wholemeal pasta
  • Fibre from veggies, legumes, wholegrains, nuts or seeds
  • Healthy fats in the form of a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a small handful of nuts and seeds or a quarter of an avocado

Without this winning formula, you’ll be hungry in no time, searching for a handful of lollies or bag of chips to give you a boost of energy – and with your waistline in mind, that’s not ideal.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.