Is eating at your desk is bad for you? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Is eating at your desk is bad for you?

Ιn the workplace people are often found munching and lunching whilst still chained to their desks


Ιn the workplace people are often found munching and lunching whilst still chained to their desks. A recent survey that was carried out by BBC Breakfast found that over 50% of office workers work through their lunch breaks, often opting for a fast food meal at their desk. Of that 50%, 20% said that they felt under pressure not to take a break due to a culture where eating at the desk has become the norm. It has been suggested that such desk luncheons are the result of workaholism and an increasing amount of technology such as email and social media that eat away at lunch breaks. As a result people feel like they have to choose fast foods and also do not consider food labels. The dangers of fast foods go beyond their calorie content and unhealthy food preparation because research has found that fast foods such as McDonalds and pre-packaged sandwiches can affect the way people think, for example by decreasing concentration and alertness.

50% of office workers work through their lunch breaks
It is important to get away from the desk. This allows yourself to unwind, revamp and get some fresh air, but also prevents you from eating mindlessly. Eating whilst distracted, for example by reading emails, can mean that you do not pay full attention to what your eating and whilst you are distracted by the task at hand, your actual hand is dipping into the treats lying around on your desk, leading to weight gain over time. It has been found that average office workers will spend 60% of their time at their desk and in that time will eat at least 1/3 of their daily calorie allowance.

FoodEating at your desk is not only affecting your weight, it is also affecting your health in more serious ways. E.g. if eating at your desk means that you do not get up and walk around at all in the 10 hours that you are at work, then it may be worth considering that this can have severe impacts on your health, because it has been suggested that sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, and therefore this is very good reason to get up and move around at lunch. In addition vitamin D requirements, which are needed for bone health, cannot be met by foods alone and most of the vitamin D intake comes from direct sunlight on the skin.  Therefore, by simply changing your habits, stepping away from the desk and sitting outside for 10 minutes can make a big difference to Vitamin D levels in your body and will help with bone health.

keyboard germs

In addition it is also disgusting to eat over the key board because of the amount of bacteria and germs that are found there. For example the University of Arizona found that the average office keyboard harbours over 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. So think again, next time you go to open up your tuna mayonnaise sandwich at your desk, as you could be consuming a number of horrible micro-organisms with it!


But if you are pushed for time at lunch then consider these tips given by the British Dietetic Association:

  • Snack on fruit during the day. (Keep a supply in the top drawer of your desk or in your bag e.g. dried apricots)
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Take healthy packed lunches e.g. using leftovers from your tea the night before.
  • Stay hydrated and be conscious of calories from sugary drinks.
  • If you’re stressed try to keep your blood sugar levels stable by eating regular, healthy meals.

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9th February 2013 at 10:10 am

Last Updated

3rd March 2013 at 10:40 pm