If you’ve never noticed how everyone in the office is rolling their eyes at what a co-worker brought in for lunch, it might be because you’re that co-worker. Yes, there are some lunch food taboos. Not because people don’t understand that those foods are delicious, and not because they may not want a bite themselves in the right circumstances, but because the smells will be stuck to everyone and everything all day—if not for several weeks to come.
The thing is, clients may be coming into the office. People may need to go out to client meetings. And, people will have afterwork obligations like PTA meetings, night classes, or the gym. No one wants to go elsewhere smelling like a co-worker’s smelly lunch. Not to mention how often people wear dry-clean-only clothing at the office. When your food choices mean your boss has to make an extra trip to the cleaners, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
So what are the worst office lunch faux pas?
1 – Fish
So, fish for lunch is generally not a good idea at the office. We all know it’s good for you. Everyone knows the health benefits. But fish, particularly if you’re going to reheat it in a microwave, can have a very powerful and lasting odor. Whether it’s leftovers of last night’s tuna surprise, your homemade salmon burger, shrimp linguine, or fish and chips, you’re probably going to be more popular around the office if you leave the seafood at home. While cold fish is generally less offensive, like a tuna salad sandwich or some cold smoked salmon, even those items can have more aroma than you may realize.
Alternatives – Chicken or turkey, especially if you don’t need to heat it, may be good lean protein alternatives to fish for your office lunch. Or just consider going meatless for lunch! Your wallet, your waistline, and the environment will thank you!
2 – Onions
Yes, they’re in so many dishes and we know you love them, but this is one to watch out for. Raw onion smells can be particularly egregious, but many cooked dishes that are onion heavy can have overwhelming odors when reheated. We’re not talking about a little onion cooked into a soup or pasta sauce, this is more about onion-forward dishes. Anything with caramelized onions or blackened onions is probably a mistake. So maybe save your liver and onions for after hours, and leave your stuffed onion leftovers at home. Also be wary of raw onions on salads as vinaigrettes can sometimes make the onion smell more pungent.
Alternatives – Try using chives on your salad for a bit of flavor punch without all the aroma.
3 – Garlic
Garlic is good, it’s so good. We know. But it’s a little less good at the office. Raw garlic in particular has the power to clear a room. If you’re bringing leftovers from the Italian restaurant you ate at last night, maybe bring the pasta but leave the garlic bread at home. Ditto for any raw garlic dishes like bruschetta or particularly pungent raw garlic salad dressings.
Alternatives – For raw garlic, sometimes finely chopped hot peppers can be a substitute without as much aroma. Another option is to consider garlic powder which adds flavor but not as much pungency.