Many companies featured on Money advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and
in-depth research may determine where and how companies appear. Learn more about how we make money.

Fish on office desk
Peter Zvonar—Getty Images

We get it. You’re busy. You’re on deadline. You have Mister Rogers-meeting-gorillas YouTubes to catch up on. For whatever reason, lunch these days is more often than not consumed at a desk, next to important papers, laptops, and dirty coffee mugs. And that also means, it’s consumed next to coworkers who may or may not delight in your culinary sensibilities or want to watch you eat.

After several long conversations about what are the worst, most offensive things you (or a coworker) could eat at his or her desk during the working day, here’s what we came up with. Make mental notes now.

Leftover Fish

Santiago Urquijo—Getty Images

Sure, fish is super healthy. And with the number of people cutting back on, or giving up meat entirely only increasing, fish is certainly a healthy alternative. But bringing leftovers from last night’s dinner really runs the risk of stinking up the place, because reheating fish can do a olfactory number on the office. As one Redditor commented last year about this very issue, “ I did that once, and really it was just as overpowering as someone smoking in your office without your permission and telling you to just get over it. Then they leave and you are still stuck with the smell for the rest of the day.“ So there it its: Fish is the new smoking.-MA


BWFolsom—Getty Images/iStockphoto

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a big bowl of pasta is the worst thing you can eat at lunchtime. Unless you’re training for the Olympics, it is scientifically impossible to shove a bunch of carbs down your throat and continue doing anything afterwards. And it’s messy! Unless you’re the type of person who puts broccoli in penne, drizzles it with olive oil, and calls it “pasta,” you will get sauce on your clothes, and you will hate yourself for the rest of the day. Guaranteed. - KB

Fast Food

Jonathan Knowles—Getty Images

Look, sometimes weeknights get away from you and you’re not in your best shape during working hours the next day. But vodka tonics taste so good! What else tastes good during those moments where you’re not feeling your best? Delicious, greasy fast food. But whatever you do, don’t eat it at your desk. You’ll scream hangover — or even if you were stone sober the night before, you’ll still risk looking like a high school kid who snuck away from campus for caloric delights that your doctor would surely frown upon. -MA

Corn on the Cob

Tanya_F—Getty Images

I grew up in the middle of Illinois, so if there’s one thing I know, it’s corn. Let me tell you a little something about corn on the cob. If you’re eating it fresh — and I PRAY that you are — you need lots of butter and salt. You also need corn on the cob holders. THIS IS NOT AN OPTION. Take a look around your desk. Do you have a pair of those handy? Does your office cafeteria keep a stack of them next to the other, equally necessary utensils? Ours sure doesn’t, even though it serves corn on the cob pretty much every week (Even in winter! When it is very out of season!!!) Eating an ear of corn without holders is like slurping gazpacho without a spoon. It’s gross, and I don’t want any part of it. - KB


Getty Images

It’s fine to let some foods just be home foods. Work isn’t you’re dining room table or your late night comedown spot on the couch. Which is the only two places you should be eating cereal, from a bowl, with milk. Think about it: You’re so used to eating cereal in such a relaxed, just-woken-up or just-ready-to-go-to bed state of mind, how will that vibe not translate into your work space? The last thing you want your coworkers to see is you bliss out over foods three year olds love. -MA


Beeldbewerking—Getty Images/iStockphoto

Really? You’re going to bring a meal that’s meant to be eaten cross-legged on the floor of a Japanese restaurant into your cubicle? You’re going to use chopsticks to dip pieces of raw fish into tiny bowls of soy and wasabi while you go about your afternoon routine, checking emails, taking client calls, et. al? You’re going to convince your coworkers to split a bunch of sushi rolls between all of your workspaces, so you can feel real cultured while your scroll through your Facebook feed? Really? -KB


Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ask any meat lover and they’ll tell you, ribs are great! Of course they are. They’re also one of the most disgusting things you can watch another person eat. Not only do you look like a legit caveman or cavewoman, you are running the risk of getting your entire space, body, and face disgustingly dirty. At all costs, resist the ribs. -MA

Fried Chicken

Getty Images/StockFood

Fried chicken smells good … at first. But by the end of the day, that oil-soaked bucket you threw in the trash will have lingered in the air for so long that everyone in your office will feel like a KFC employee. Y'all have worked too hard for that. - KB


Aleksandr_Vorobev—Getty Images/iStockphoto

At a previous job, there was a fantastic taco truck that set up shop outside my office. It only appeared twice a week, and therefore, had lines down the block. On a nice warm summer day, it easily took 35 minutes to get tacos. But they were worth it! But here’s the thing with tacos. There is a certain degree of neck tilting one has to do that most other foods don’t require. There’s no other way around it, and, even if you’re super skilled at this technique, the chances of food NOT falling out the back of the taco is pretty slim. It’s not a great look, for one, and getting grilled onions all over your keyboard — which I did too many times to remember — is also a bad move. Turns out, IT hates to fix a keyboard because of you can’t put food properly in your mouth. - MA


Michael Mller / EyeEm—Getty Images/EyeEm

You’re a grown up. If you’re going to eat something with sticky, messy, penetratingly sweet-smelling maple syrup to start your day, don’t do it in front of other people.- KB