WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU HEAR THAT WORD?
Depending on your situation you might not think anything at all. Lunch? You say to yourself. You skip right on over it and forget to eat. Or, you may think of something consumed while hunched over a desk. The quicker it goes down the better because you’ve got things to do. Or, maybe it’s your favorite hour of the day, and you truly relish in that mid-day break.
By definition the word lunch means
‘a meal eaten in the middle of the day, typically one that is lighter or less formal than an evening meal.’
With nearly 124 million Americans employed, where are the majority of us during the middle of the day?
That’s a lot of people consuming a meal on the clock every single day, which makes the work environment all the more important for this oh-so-precious meal.
Research shows that 1 in 5 people step away from their desks for a midday meal. 1 in 5! That’s a lot of people not taking what is likely a much-needed break from their stressful, challenging jobs. But, breaks are sacred. They are important. Studies show that even small breaks like walking can fuel creativity.
studies show that even small breaks like walking can fuel creativity.
Furthermore, lunch breaks can increase productivity, concentration, and social connections.
So, if we know the benefits, why aren’t more people doing it?
At WellSeek we believe in the power of a good, quality lunch break for optimum success at work. And, beyond that, utilizing the time to fill up on the right foods that make us feel like our best selves.
A common misconception is that it’s too hard to pack a lunch. People are either too busy or they think that bringing one will prohibit them from getting up and out. Then, time gets away from them and they end up running to the vending machine or the nearest fast food restaurant or corner deli where health isn’t necessarily the first thing on their minds. They are thinking about the most recent ‘fire drill,’ urgent email, or big presentation. Work is hard! And, we need to remember to treat our bodies right to support the toll those deadlines take on us.
So, how can we get the most out of our lunch breaks?
The WellSeek team got together for a lunch of our own at Cafe Gratitude in San Diego to discuss the matter.
Start With The Right Foods
First things first, integrate the right foods! We like to call them ‘work nourishing meals.’ Our resident dietitian, Sara Tindaro, suggests the following list of foods to get you started on ideas to add to your grocery list or keep in mind when dining out.
Greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, romaine, etc. You get the idea, we love green! If it’s a vegetable, it’s on our list, especially the non-starchy kind. Here are some ideas to get you started: brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, and cucumber
Chicken or turkey, fish such as salmon, eggs, and yogurt
Vegetarian option: quinoa, legumes, nuts, and most plants have varying amounts of protein
Avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts and seeds, coconut, dark chocolate (yes, we know you’ll love this one)
Starchier vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash
Whole grains such as quinoa, beans and legumes (also a good source of protein), brown rice, and fruit like bananas, apples, berries, oranges, and grapes. Whatever is in season!
Pack It Up
Next, packing is your friend. Often times it can take no longer than 5 minutes to throw together a work nourishing meal, especially if you can utilize last night’s leftovers. All you need is a simple container to take with you on your commute. Here are a few meal ideas Sara recommends to get you started:
Make a Bowl
Leftover protein from the night before, such as salmon on top of chopped cabbage, bell peppers, any other vegetable, and quinoa. Lightly dress with an extra virgin olive oil-based vinaigrette.
Throw Together a Salad
Lentils, walnuts, chopped sweet potato, romaine, avocado, tomatoes, and red onion. Top it with a dollop of hummus and some micro greens, and drizzle with a mix of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
Meal in a Jar
Try a deconstructed sushi roll with brown rice, nori, shredded carrots cucumber sticks, avocado, pickled ginger, and wasabi paste dressed with a rice vinegar or soy sauce based dressing.
Back to Basics
When all else fails, a good ‘ol PB&J on whole grain bread with sliced carrots and cucumbers on the side will do the trick! Try a nut butter other than peanut butter, like almond or sunflower butter. And, smashing berries then spreading on bread in place of traditional jelly makes for a healthier twist.
Grab A Buddy
We are all about building a community here at WellSeek, and we think it’s a great approach to take with your lunch break too. Grab a friend or colleague and take your meal outside! Soak in some Vitamin D, breathe in the fresh air, and have a non-work related conversation. If the weather doesn’t permit, head to the break room or a community table and chit chat there. Studies show that adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers. That puts dining out with friends in a whole new light, doesn’t it?
A key to maximizing the lunch hour is to take your time. So often we rush through our food and don’t even taste it. We owe it to ourselves to stop and enjoy a meal. Research reveals that being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tends to make people eat more at that meal. So, slow down. Chew your food. If there is no possible way you can step away from your desk, at least turn off work mode for 10-15 minutes and read an article you’ve bookmarked or your current book.
At our most recent lunch at Cafe Gratitude we participated in their ‘question of the day,’ which is meant to inspire meaningful and reflective conversations amongst their guests. Ours was, ‘What is your greatest success?’ We went around the table to share our individual perspectives, and each of us was most proud of following our dreams and our hearts’ truest passions.
But, we also discussed that
those personal successes did not happen over night. They were a gradual process
The same rule applies for the art of the lunch break. Start small. Integrate one step and one change at a time. Before you know it, your lunches will be one of the greatest successes of your day.