Having your workplace provide lunch can be a convenient option when you’re in a pinch, but a midday macro surprise can easily throw off your nutrition plan for the day. Free food is hard to pass up, so here are a few tips for taking advantage of free work lunches without messing up your macros.
Find the trends.
Chances are the food options are consistent from day to day or on a weekly rotation, which can help you plan ahead. There might be an option that is always available like a salad bar, or maybe there are some days that will always be a no-go like pizza. Make friends with whoever orders the food and perhaps they’ll be able to tell you the meal plans for each week! This will help you anticipate which days you need to pack your own food and which days you can enjoy the free meal.
Reference online nutrition information.
If your workplace orders food from a chain restaurant or large-scale commercial catering company, then you should be able to find nutrition for the dishes. You can reference chain restaurants nutrition menus easily online. For catering services, a quick email should get you the information you need. If you can’t find the exact data for the company used, the next best thing is to find a dish similar to what’s served and use an entry from a different chain to help gauge the macros.
Keep it simple and keep it similar.
Just like eating at a restaurant, choose foods with ingredients that are easy to identify, as well as foods that would normally fit into your day. This will help minimize the margin of error. For example, stick to lean proteins, vegetables and carb sources like bread and steamed rice. By choosing foods you’re familiar with, you’ll automatically be better at gauging portion sizes if you decide to estimate your meal.
Weigh it out.
If you’re comfortable with it, keep a scale at your desk so you can determine accurate serving sizes. Since you may be using a generic entry for the items it might not have the exact macros, but having control over the portion helps to increase accuracy. If you don’t feel comfortable using a scale all the time, then weigh some of your favorite meals once and store them in MyFitnessPal.
Mix and match.
Perhaps the options at work don’t totally work for what you need macro wise, but it doesn’t need to be an all or nothing thing. For example, if your work has an awesome salad and veggie bar or fresh fruit, bring items from home to amp it up! Bring a tuna pack or deli meat to bump up the protein in your salad or fat-free Greek yogurt to go with the fruit for dessert.