Mornings can be a trail of maddening misses – alarm, breakfast, transport and appointments. When endless traffic jams and rumbling tummy follow all this, it promises to be a hard day. No scope to plan a healthy morning meal, leave alone lunch. And the only succour you have is the cafeteria which can be a convenient option when you’re perpetually playing catch up with the clock. But the calories, sugar, fat and sodium intake can take a toll on your health if you’re not careful with your choices.

Take a cue from these five easy tips the next time you serve yourself lunch. Strike the perfect balance between tantalizing taste and wholesome nutrition. How often do you remember your mom’s advice – ‘let not your eyes be bigger than your stomach’.

1. Manage Your Portions
Portion sizes at cafeterias and canteens tend to be larger than those you’d normally serve yourself at home. If you find yourself wrestling with the quantity, ration your food, parcel a part of it or divide it with a coworker. In the same vein, try to avoid super-sized meal deals. While you may think you’re saving big on cash, you’ll end up increasing your calorie intake. If you’re truly tempted to eat a decadent dessert (again, something you’re unlikely to carry from home), split it with a colleague or ask for half a portion.

2. Tailor Your Meals
If your workplace offers buffet meals, it’s up to you how much you want to pile onto your plate. Request for more veggies and more fibre when you’re being served. Opt for a serving of salad or raita with your meal, swap deep-fried foods like pakora and Manchurian for shallow-fried alternatives like cutlets, and increase your protein to carb ratio. The more colorful your plate, the more likely it is that you’re sourcing nutrition from a variety of food groups.

3. Go Easy on Beverages
Aerated drinks and packaged fruit juices have high sugar content. If you’re used to ordering a beverage with your meal, try fresh buttermilk, sparkling or fresh lime water or fresh fruit juice. The same goes for sauces, spreads, dressings and condiments. While these may be heavenly for your taste buds, they can be high on fat, sodium, and empty calories.

4. Know your Food
It’s important to know what you ingest or how your food is prepared. Don’t hesitate to find out the method of preparation for a dish that perceptibly teeters on unhealthy and make a conscious commitment to stick to shallow-fried, pressure-cooked options. If you aren’t sure how to visually evaluate foods, speak to a dietician about how to pick up on visual cues and plan your meals accordingly.

5. Eat Slowly
Not only does your lunch break serve as a welcome change of environment, but it also gives you the opportunity to relish your food really. Remember to start your meal with a glass of water Take time to eat slowly, chew every morsel and allow your body to register fullness. It takes about twenty minutes for the brain to comprehend that the belly has reached its maximum threshold. The sense of fullness will ensure you don’t tuck in as much.

Eating at your office cafeteria can be an experience if you take the time to plan and prioritize your meals. If you don’t already have a weekly menu in place, request for one from your HR associate or the caterer directly. This way, you can plan your servings rather than being sinfully enticed by hunger at the last moment. In turn, you can give your tummy and your taste buds the best of flavor and fulfillment.

Founded in 2013, OurHealthMate (OHM) is a health-tech startup. Their award-winning services are rooted in a three-pronged service strategy: care planning, business intelligence, and quality execution. We help corporates create a healthy work environment that is engaging, inspires creativity, productivity and innovation.

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