Practicing five midday meal ‘tips’ may mean a more productive day
By: Karen Leland
The past few months it seems I’ve spent countless lunch hours hovering over my desk
while shoveling food from the deli next door down my throat. Between telephone interviews,
Twitter postings and tough economic times, I often don’t make the effort to do more
than choke down a salad or sandwich and call it lunch. In between forkfuls of romaine,
my mind wanders to the good old days when I leisurely ate steamed dumplings from the
dim sum restaurant down the street, or pommes frites from the French-style sidewalk
café overlooking the bay. All this midday-meal mayhem has left me longingly wondering
what has happened to the lunch hour.
According to one new study, 45 percent of the country’s workers say they’re taking
shorter and/or fewer lunch breaks than they did a year ago. More than a third say
they pass on their lunch break, thanks to an increasing workload.
Eating at your desk during the lunch hour isn’t always the best practice.Walk away
from your work area when grabbing a bite to eat.
So what impact does this meal skipping have on productivity? Plenty, according to
Dr. Rallie McAllister, author of Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom’s Guide to Keeping
You and Your Kids Trim.
“Skipping any meal is detrimental,” said McAllister. “The brain is what most workers
rely on and it does not have storage tanks for energy.”
McAllister says the brain relies on consumption of available blood sugar instead and
that after just a few hours of not eating, blood sugar can drop to subnormal levels
and the brain can’t function optimally.
“In short, skipping meals leads to poor cognitive functioning, including loss of memory,
concentration, the ability to learn, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to catch
mistakes,” said McAllister.
Eventually, however, we all get stark-raving hungry – what McAllister calls our “hunger
threshold.” At that point, we throw caution to the wind and end up eating whatever
foods are closest at hand — be it a high-fat burrito from the vending machine or a
doughnut served at the afternoon sales meeting.
So what’s a well-meaning U of M worker to do when faced with 10 projects all pressing
down on one’s head and lunchtime looming large? Well, for one, plan for your hunger
by standing up to the tyranny of your to-do list and giving yourself some lunch-hour
love. Here are five ways to take a lunch break and mean it:
• Ditch your desk. Wolfing down a cereal bar with one hand while e-mailing a colleague with the other
does not qualify as a lunch break. Even if you only have a few minutes and can’t leave
the building or your home office, walk away from your work area or go into your kitchen
to grab a bite.
•Schedule your salad. Want to make sure you get a real lunch break? Make a date to take yourself out to
lunch, and write it on your calendar.
•Co-op a colleague. Make an arrangement with a coworker, vendor, colleague or pal to have a working lunch
outside the office. You’re more likely to keep the appointment when another person
•Manage your meeting times. A customer wants to make a telephone appointment for 12:45. Suggest 11:45 instead.
By avoiding meetings, conference calls and deadlines that occur within an hour of
your designated lunch break, you run less risk of digestive distress from skipping
the midday meal.
•Store a stash. Just in case the raging river of work crises proves too much, and you have to work
over a lunch period, don’t go without feeding your brain the food it needs to keep
you sharp and focused. Plan for those lost-lunch-break emergencies by keeping a healthy
stash of snacks on hand in your desk drawer. Most nutritionists recommend a combo
of protein, fats and carbohydrates to keep your energy up and your brain on track.
A few easy-to-keep combinations include dried fruit and nuts, cheese and whole grain
crackers, fruit and cheese, and protein bars.
So, over the next few weeks, step out of your office, take a walk, spend some time
in the sunshine (or at the very least, leave your desk), and commit to taking a lunch
break three times a week for the next few weeks. I predict you’ll not only feel calmer,
but your productivity will improve with each tuna sandwich consumed.
(Karen Leland is the author of six books and writes a column for The Huffington Post Living section. Thanks to Leland and webworkerdaily.com for use of this article.)