You may have what you think is a good reason to skip lunch — you're in the middle of a project or you don't want to interrupt your workflow, for example. You might even feel guilty leaving your desk to take a half-hour break for food and breath of fresh air.
According to research by Right Management, only one in five employees in North America takes a lunch break, and almost 40 percent eat lunch at their desk. But taking a break and grabbing a bite can make a big difference in your energy, productivity and happiness, experts say.
Here are some ways to ensure you're doing lunch right.
Lunch is about more than eating
It's not just eating that gives you a boost to get through the afternoon, says Lisa Weston, director of wellness promotion at Bagnall Co. "The act of stepping away from your desk for lunch requires movement. Getting up and moving around gets the blood moving in your body and wakes you up." Even this small movement can make you feel refreshed and ready to take on another task.
"Stepping away from your desk to fuel up can also help to clear the mind and improve a person's mood," says Shira Katz, staff dietitian with the EAT Club, which provides corporate catering. When you make a lunch break part of your schedule, you can increase your energy levels, stabilize your blood sugar, and enhance delivery of nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and fiber that help your systems run smoothly.
Desk eating may be mindless eating
If you eat lunch at your desk and work while you're eating, it's harder to get the benefits of a break. "When you pay attention to what you are eating and how long it takes to eat, you are more prone to detect your body signals when you are full," Weston says. Not focusing on your meal can also make it easier for you to select convenience foods or other unhealthy choices instead of taking the time to prepare a nutritious meal.
Ignoring your body's signals can sabotage your healthy eating efforts later in the day, says Karen Koenig, an expert in the psychology of eating. "Lunching at one's desk increases the likelihood of mindless eating, which means enjoying food less, eating beyond full, and generally not feeling satisfied by it which often leads to snacking on non-nutritious foods later in the day."
How to take a legitimate lunch break
If your company culture is one where everyone eats at their desks, you may have to start a conversation about the importance of lunch breaks so you can start getting a real one. Talk about the boost of productivity lunch can bring, Koenig says. "People need to build lunch time into their workday and let everyone know — supervisors, colleagues and subordinates — that this is a protected time for them, then do all they can to cultivate a 'lunch breaks are valuable' attitude in their workplace."
Weston suggests you find a lunch buddy who can keep you accountable for stepping away from your desk. Scheduling lunch like a meeting and making it a priority can help, too. "Add lunch to your calendar and know where you are having lunch before your day begins. By adding you to the schedule, you are more focused on taking the lunch you should taking daily."
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