• By Julie Stefanski
  • In 2019
  • September 12, 2019

Power Up Your Lunchtime Routine

By Beth Stark, RD, LDN

Back in May I had the opportunity to present a webinar focused on insights gathered from a consumer survey that aimed to uncover the percentage of Americans that eat lunch regularly, understand the perceived impact that lunch has on body and mind, determine the cause of irregular lunch patterns, less nutritious choices or eating on the go and how lunchtime habits vary across different groups.

In short, the insights showed that consumer lunchtime habits are shifting. Many lack routine and don’t plan ahead so they opt for convenience over nutrition. Consumers also want to recharge at lunch and take a break; however, this doesn’t often happen. The consequences of skipping lunch go beyond intense afternoon hunger pangs and include decreased productivity, mental well-being, creativity and overall work performance.

Personally, I learned quite a bit about my own lunchtime habits as a result of preparing for the webinar and realized that I had some improvements to make in order to power up my own lunchtime routine. Here, I’m sharing these 3 key takeaways that have helped me on this path and will likely help anyone else that generally attempts to multi-task over the lunch hour instead of truly taking a break.

Take a Brain Break

While many of us intend to recharge and take a true lunch break at mid-day, our behavior doesn’t align, and we remain engaged on our screens and often eat at the desk or skip lunch altogether. Not only does this sacrifice physical movement, but it certainly doesn’t refresh one’s brain power, give the eyes a rest or provide an energy boost for the afternoon.

Power up tip:

If you’re like me, seeing something on the calendar or to-do list ensures it gets completed. The same strategy applies to lunchtime. Try setting a reminder on your calendar to take back the mid-day meal, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Your afternoon mood, productivity level and appetite will all reap the benefit from this change.

Plan for Success

Meal planning is a core step towards making the most of your lunch break and beating the afternoon energy slump. Stocking your workspace with shelf-stable options can solve the lunchtime dilemma when you’re in a pinch. A few healthful staples I have since added to my desk and office fridge include: flavored tuna in a pouch, whole-grain crackers, almond butter, microwaveable rice/quinoa cups, nuts, hummus, salad mix and baby carrots. If you let your creativity go, the combination possibilities of these ingredients are endless.

Power up tip:  

Identify a few foods that can be easily stored in your desk and/or an office fridge and stock up. These are great fill-in items for the days that your meal planning game isn’t on point and/or you are feeling the pressures of a big deadline and can’t leave the office. Access to healthful options makes all the difference.

Nourish with Energizing Foods

It’s no secret that a lunch of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean or plant-based protein will power you up and through the afternoon far better than resorting to whatever foods you can find laying around.

Power up tip:

Get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck by relying on these types of nutrient-rich foods for lunch and help others around you do the same. As dietitians, we can encourage our own peers and upper management to recognize the importance of taking a break and make it a regular part of the culture of wellness. This time shouldn’t be perceived as a negative, but a positive, and supported daily habit.

Beth Stark, RDN, LDN is the Manager of Lifestyle Initiatives at Weis Markets, a family-owned and -operated supermarket chain with 200 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. Here, she leads the team of 7 corporately-based and in-store dietitians. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.