Hey desktop diners! If you're like me, your daily grind may require you to eat at your desk frequently at work. We talk a lot about meal prep and packing work lunches, but not enough is spoken about lunch safety!
A survey done by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 83% of us in the US eat not only lunch at our desks, but breakfast and snacks too. It was also found that almost half of us have left a meal that belongs in a fridge or freezer out for 3 hours or more. This begs for the discussion on increasing food safety and decreasing chance for possible foodborne illness at work. The good news is, a few simple tips can help:
1️⃣ Stock your desk with basics like hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes or spray and paper towels. This makes it easier to wash our hands before and after eating, and cleaning up before and after. Remember that our desks are full of things we touch often but rarely clean, so be aware of creating a clean space for what’s about to go into your body.
2️⃣ If you pack your lunch, invest in an insulated lunch bag and always use an ice pack. If you often forget to put your lunch in the fridge at work or don’t have access to one, shelf-stable foods you can pack include trail mix, oatmeal, bread or crackers, nuts and nut butters, granola/protein bars, tomatoes, avocados, whole fruit, dried fruit, or applesauce.
3️⃣ If you do use a fridge at work, often check the fridge thermometer to make sure it is 40 degrees F or below. Prevent keeping your perishable foods out at room temp for more than 2 hours, as it increases likelihood of bacterial growth. Also be mindful of how long certain foods have been in there, and check "best eaten by" dates frequently.
4️⃣ We often hear things like, "it's cooked already, it'll be ok!” But keeping hot foods hot is as important as keeping cold foods cold. If you bring frozen meals, avoid defrosting on a counter and use the microwave. Food safe internal heat of ready to eat meals or leftovers is 165 degrees F. Since carrying around a food thermometer isn’t practical, be mindful of heating your meals thoroughly and avoiding keeping them at room temperature for too long.
Even at your desk you can try to limit distractions while eating, such as avoiding phone calls or taking a break screen time to increase mindfulness. While eating at our desks isn’t always ideal, fitting in a balanced meal how we can is better than none at all!