Lunch Money

Edmund Marsh

WE ALL HAVE GOOD habits and bad habits. One of my best habits: bringing my lunch to work.

I save both money and calories by brown-bagging it rather than buying lunch at a restaurant. My lunch of leftovers, along with a few pieces of fruit and a bottle of water, cost less than even a fast-food meal deal, and it’s healthier. What about the long-term savings from avoiding those additional calories? Researchers have found that excess body weight adds thousands of dollars to our annual health care expenses.

My meals at home are also reasonably healthy, mostly lean meats and fresh vegetables. The leftovers find their way into my lunchbox the next morning. A typical midday meal for me is two to three ounces of meat, one cup of steamed vegetables and two or three pieces of in-season fruit. The cost is less than $3.

By contrast, a McDonald’s Big Mac combo meal runs to more than $8. A Chipotle grilled chicken burrito with rice, black beans and a drink is $11 to $12. Lunch at LongHorn Steakhouse starts at $8.

The calorie count for my lunch is also lower. The total usually runs about 400. By contrast, the Big Mac combo boasts 1,080 calories, the Chipotle meal can total around 820, and a LongHorn crispy chicken combo has 1,200 calories if you choose a salad and diet drink.

Those extra calories don’t automatically mean extra weight. But experience tells me that fast food lunches and a few restaurant dinners add pounds to my frame. Toss in a latte, instead of my preferred home-brewed black coffee at breakfast, and I could be headed toward a body mass index, or BMI, that’s dangerous to my health and my wallet.

BMI is a measure of total body fat calculated from the height and weight of adult men and women. The higher the number, the more body fat a person is carrying around. An individual with normal weight has a BMI between 18.5 and 25.

Researchers from Harvard and George Washington University, drawing on data from 2011-16, estimate that a moderately obese person with a BMI of 30 to 35 spends about $1,800 more on health care each year than a person of normal body weight. Someone with a BMI over 35 can spend more than $3,000 extra.

If bringing lunch to work is one of my good habits, what are my bad habits? Wow, is that the time? Got to go.

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