Top 9 Meals to Eat Alone at your Desk

From worst to best, here’s a definitive ranking of the top 9 lunches to eat alone at your desk, with suggested pairings of work tasks to complete while crying eating.

Eat Alone at Desk

#9 A handful of almonds

That bag of roasted almonds has been sitting on the back of your desk for months, ever since you resolved to be a healthy snacker at work. But you’re not, and you never will be. These almonds serve one purpose and one purpose only: an emergency backup meal.

You may think “Oh, almonds have protein. This will tide me over until 5 PM.” Wrong.

Dead freaking wrong.

These salty little bastards will make you hungrier than you were before you begrudgingly shoved them in your mouth.

Pair with: Mindless data entry. This meager meal isn’t sustainable brain energy.

#8 Soylent

Soylent is a plant-based meal replacement drink, and it’s bad. It’s bad in a way that you’re like “oh, it’s bad until it’s good.” But then it never gets good. It’s still always just bad, but you say it’s good to your coworkers because they’ve probably Googled how much it costs you to buy bad plant milk.

The only reason that Soylent gets to be a rank above “handful of almonds” is that it does, in fact, make you feel full. Not like, full full. But like if someone poured some potting soil into your stomach. Also, that’s the aftertaste.

Pair with: Watering the office plant. Water that plant, you plant person.

#7 Gas station sandwich

You eat at your desk not because you actually want to, but your workplace culture makes you feel obligated to. So, if you’re going to go out for lunch, you better make it snappy. Unfortunately, the only thing within the block of your building is a gas station.

A gas station sandwich is definitely not the worst thing you could eat in front of the soft glow of your work computer, but it is arguably one of the saddest. Let’s weigh the pros and cons


  • Meat (protein!)

  • Cheese (calcium!)

  • Lettuce (vegetables!)


  • It’s wet.

Pair with: Pretending to work, just like you are pretending this sandwich is food.

#6 Just some coffee

You’re probably thinking “That’s not a meal! How did ‘just some coffee’ make it so high on the list?”

Hear me out.

A workday fueled by the appropriate amount of coffee can often do you more good than a carbohydrate-packed wet gas station sandwich. Just some coffee can carry an employee into the afternoon with a sense of buzzy productivity.

But you have to strike the right balance with a coffee-only workday. Too much coffee can push you into dangerous waters. You don’t want to be known as “Dave the Bathroom Guy,” do you?

Pair with: The project you’ve been putting off. You can finally get it done with the Herculean coffee-only neurosis you’ve caffeinated your way into.

#5 Plastic grab bag

A plastic grab bag is created by haphazardly shoving food items from home into a plastic shopping bag minutes before work. The plastic grab bag makes its way to the middle of the list because it can really swing either way in terms of quality. Here’s are some examples.

A good grab bag:

  • An orange

  • Some granola

  • Yogurt

  • Protein bar

A bad grab bag:

  • Plastic silverware

  • Popcorn

However good or bad, plastic grab bags are usually at least fun. It’s always a surprise to discover which items you were able to sleepily gather from your own home Supermarket Sweep style.

Pair with: Social media content generation. Unboxing videos are really popular these days, why not unbagging?

#4 A frozen meal

Frozen meals are the training wheels on the journey to meal prep. It’s also a statement piece.

A Cheese Tamale Lean Cuisine says to your coworkers “Yeah, I’m watching my calorie intake, but I still have fun.” A Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala says “I am worth the $3.50!” An Amy’s frozen bean burrito says “I’m thrifty and globally conscious,” and also, “stay away from my desk for the next couple hours.”

Pair with: Reputation management. Be hyper-aware of the environment you’ve created with your microwaved meal aroma.

#3 Delivered sushi

A delivered meal at lunchtime is true luxury. And if you’re going to do it, you better go in.

Order sushi to your completely landlocked office. Make your coworker buzz the delivery guy in; you’re too important to stand. Eat that sushi with chopsticks because you’re cultured and you know how. Most importantly, show your coworkers that you’re better than them.

However, a lunch so luxurious has its downsides. Coworkers might see this behavior as a power-move and become competitive with you.

Also, it’s very expensive.

Pair with: Research on local professional development seminars. Let people walk by your desk and think you have money for sushi and self-improvement.

#2 Some quinoa meal kit bullshit

Delivered sushi says to coworkers you live in the lap of luxury, but bringing prepared meals to lunch is an even bigger statement. It proves you’re put-together, stable, and have managed to find work-life balance.

If you can find the time to make some bullshit Pinterest healthy quinoa whatever and put it in little containers before the work week, you’ve got it. You are really living. What the hell are you doing reading this article? Go meditate or whatever balanced people do.

Pair with: Being responsible or some dumb crap like that.

#1 Leftover birthday cake

Oh man, there is really nothing better than leftover birthday cake for lunch. I mean, getting distracted in the middle of the workday for a birthday celebration is nice. But it’s hard to truly enjoy the cake over small-talk and forced enthusiasm.

The real treat is snagging a corner piece for lunch the next day. There’s almost no nutritional value, but you didn’t have to pay for it and it’s like a tiny party at your desk!

Pair with: A good podcast and some emails to ignore. You deserve to focus on you.

About the author

Michelle Leatherby

Mortgage professional by day, comedy writer by night (or by day if no one's looking).
Medium: @michelle.leatherby

Send this to a friend