Why Lunch Breaks Are the Secret to Health and Happiness at Work, According to a Registered Dietician
Your sad desk lunch habit is harmful for reasons far more serious than making the office smell like salmon.
Imagine stopping your work day at say at 1 pm to have a two to three hour siesta. Impossible with your work load, I know, but, it’s more than just tradition that has kept this practice alive in many European countries. They’ve known for centuries that taking a break in the middle of the day improves the health and productivity of the work force (and are fighting to hold on to that). Here in American, we’ve had to wait and see the research to support that before realizing its importance.
Alas, it has arrived. No surprise here: according to research from Tork, our productivity, mental well-being, and overall work performance begin to suffer dramatically when we don’t take a break in the middle of our work day.
Refueling with food is the main reason we stop in the middle of the day, and it’s important to step away from your desk to do this. Brand new research just published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology confirms that sedentary time is associated with increased cardiovascular mortality among adults who engage in minimal to no physical activity. And yet, investigators have also found that time spent each week doing moderate-to-vigorous activity appears to lessen and even eliminate this relationship. So, get out and take a walk to get some fresh air and sunlight before you sit down to eat. Even if you only get out for just 15 to 20 minutes, getting up and moving your body will boost your mood and help you be more productive, creative, and energetic.
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And as far as what to eat, follow this formula to get the right balance of nutrients to keep you energized and alert all afternoon:
- One half of the plate should be filled with vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, red peppers, and zucchini.
- One quarter of the plate filled with lean meat such as chicken, turkey, tuna, or salmon.
- One quarter of the plate filled with whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice or barley.
- To make things taste better, make sure to include a little healthy fat like olive oil in your dressing or avocado on your sandwich or salad.
- Snacks can include fruits, nuts, and yogurt.
Still unsure what to pack? Here's a perfect example: A tuna or turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato and avocado or a brown rice bowl topped with sautéed vegetables and baked tofu.
If you can share your lunch hour with some friends or colleagues, the social interaction is another great technique to get your energy up for an afternoon of work. We may not have the luxury of a long afternoon rest, but thinking of your lunch hour as an opportunity to improve your health and performance at work may be just the motivation you need to step away from the screen.