By Jon Yaneff
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Is the office lunch break becoming extinct? The majority of American workers don’t have time to leave their desk at the office to enjoy a midday meal, according to various surveys.
So just how many Americans take a lunch break? The actual amount depends on the survey, but they all have one thing in common: not many.
According to a 2011 survey from the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods’ Home Safety program, 62% of Americans don’t find time to eat their lunch away from their desk. Another study conducted in 2011 by Right Management, a human resources consulting firm, found that 34% of Americans found time to eat at their desk, while 31% would rarely take a lunch break at all. Based on these statistics, it seems as if Americans think it’s normal to be overworked, without the chance for their food to properly digest in comfort and relaxation.
Although it appears common among Americans, where a fast-paced economy is the norm, it’s not the case in other countries around the world. French workers, for example, take approximately two hours for a lunch break. It is sacred for the French, with about 95% eating a long lunch.
I would recommend meeting somewhere in the middle. Is it too much to take a 30-minute lunch break to enjoy your healthy meal away from your desk? Your body deserves more support and respect then barely squeezing in a meal at your cubicle.
Here are four reasons you should consider taking lunch breaks:
1. Eating at your desk disturbs your digestion
Eating when your mind is busy, you tend to eat faster, swallow huge chunks of food instead of mindfully chewing your meal. Chewing is important for proper digestion, and chewing for a minimum of 30 minutes helps your food digest better.
Chew every bite, and be mindful of your food, instead of eating because you feel hungry. Also, consume the lighter foods (fruits, vegetables, leafy greens) before the heavier ones (grains, starches, meats). This helps you avoid health concerns such as IBS, gas, bloating, or other chronic issues.
2. Eating at your desk is not sanitary
You may have washed your food, or prepared it with clean hands – but what about your workstation?
The lunch-room might be more sanitary than your keyboard. According to a 2007 University of Arizona study, your desk contains about 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen, considering people rarely clean their keyboards and desk, but the kitchen is often cleaned every day. In fact, 64% of people surveyed by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods’ Home Safety program in 2011 said they clean their keyboard once a month or less.
Always wash your hands with soap and water before you eat your food. Try to eat your food in the lunch-room, but don’t neglect cleaning your keyboard and other surface areas on a regular basis anyway. And if you do eat your food at your desk, at least you won’t be attracting unwelcomed bacteria.
3. Eating at your desk is distracting
You need a mental break! Your desk can be distracting: it contains your computer, your phone, and that stack of paperwork you have to finish by 5 pm. In our society, where multi-tasking is praised, we often forget that we can even take a break, and that most offices have lunch-rooms. But you need to find balance with your food, and your day. Many people find they don’t get a lot of work done while eating at the same time anyway.
Take a moment to relax somewhere away from your desk, and be at peace with your food, void of distractions. Eat in a calm state of mind with nothing on your work plate and plenty on your food plate, for at least 30 minutes. Leave your cell phone at your desk, where you could be tempted to check work e-mails. Even before eating your meal, try mediating for two to five minutes, to bring more serenity to your lunch, and the rest of your day.
4. Taking a break increases your energy levels
When you don’t get proper nutrition – from missing meals or digesting them on the run – your work will suffer. When you always eat at your desk, you can feel tense and tired without an uninterrupted break. People tend to think that continuously being at their desk means that more work is being completely; however, the opposite may be true. Your productivity and energy will improve by leaving your desk to eat lunch every day, according to many different productivity experts.
Workplace psychology gurus and wellness experts recommend several midday practices, aside from eating lunch away from your desk. Taking a short walk to get some sunlight (a natural source of vitamin D), interacting with office friends, or exercise/stretching are great ways to increase your productivity and creativity on your short lunch break.
Also, consider eating nutrient-high foods for energy such as sweet potatoes, spinach, fruits with honey, or brown rice. Replace your sugary so-called ‘energy’ drink with whole foods to increase your energy when you have numerous daily tasks to complete.
The Bottom Line
Society is always on the go, although making time to prepare a healthy lunch will always benefit you in the long run. Taking time away from your workspace is a short break that your body needs, and whether you spend it with co-workers or alone, it should be an enjoyable time with your food.
- Le Billon, K., “How long is your lunch break? In France, it’s two hours,” Karen Le Billon web site, Oct. 16, 2011; http://karenlebillon.com/2011/10/16/how-long-is-your-lunch-break-in-france-its-two-hours/.
- Dupont, C., The New Enlightened Eating: Simples Recipes for Extraordinary Living (Summertown: Books Alive, 2012), 20-21.
- BraccioHerlin, B., “Why taking lunch makes you a better employee,” CNN.com web site, January 31, 2011; http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/01/31/cb.lunch.break/.
- Pappas, S., “What Happened to the Lunch Break?” LiveScience web site, Aug. 12, 2012; http://www.livescience.com/22291-what-happened-lunch-break.html.
- Krishan, S., “5 Reasons You Should Leave Your Desk To Eat Lunch,” Care2 Healthy Living, Oct. 5, 2013; http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-reasons-not-to-skip-your-lunch-break.html.
- Krucik, G., “Health Hazards of Eating Lunch at Your Desk,” Heathline web site, June 15, 2012; http://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health?toptoctest=expand.
- Muhammad, L., “More workers work through lunch or eat at their desks,” USA TODAY web site, April 13, 2013; https://web.archive.org/web/20200225220351/https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/workplace/story/2012-04-15/lunch-at-work/54167808/1.
Previous article by Jon Yaneff:
About the author:
As a former sports reporter with a community newspaper group, an industrialized and fast food lifestyle was his companion. Having left his position, Jon has undergone massive changes in his life over the past couple of years. He is now open to everything, trying every new thing that he feels can benefit him in the long run. He has adopted yogic, spiritual, holistic and vegetarian lifestyles, finding peace and allowing him to spread that peace to others through his words. He also has a blog geared toward health, well-being and a conscious lifestyle at WellBeing Stadium.
This article courtesy of foods4betterhealth.com