Lunch hour spent in a restaurant can be a good break, but it comes with drawbacks. Finance and nutrition sciences experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) say dining out during the work day too often can be an expensive and unhealthy habit, but simple tips can make lunchtime healthier for the body, mind and bank account.
UAB Personal Finance Instructor Elizabeth Turnbull, M.B.A., explained that eating lunches out adds up.
"If you spend even just $6 per lunch five days per week, that is $120 every four weeks," Turnbull said. "Obviously, this number increases drastically if you are married and your spouse is doing the same thing."
Turnbull recommends setting an achievable goal.
"Instead of saying you will never eat out, which is pretty unrealistic, plan to eat lunch out no more than two days a week instead of five," Turnbull said. "This will help you better adhere to the plan, save money and develop better habits."
UAB Assistant Professor of Nutrition Sciences Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D., added that dining out too often can also be unhealthy.
"Restaurant meals are typically high in calories, fat and sodium," said Kitchin. "It is possible for you to make good choices - but it's harder to make healthy choices when the temptation is staring at you."
Kitchin said packing a lunch can make healthier decisions easier.
"Bento style - where you pack several single portions in a box - offers a lot of opportunity to get creative and really use the resources you have on hand," Kitchin said. "Grab some of the leftover chicken from the night before. Add some carrot sticks, cheese and crackers - basically any finger food that travels well."
Kitchen recommends packing simple, well-rounded meals.