On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

4 Ways to Spend Your Lunch Break

Not only will you feel more energized and productive with these fun things to do on your lunch break, but can reap some serious health benefits!

Lunch breaks are seemingly obvious times in which employees, well, eat lunch. But more workers confess to working through lunches rather than taking a rest period. 

Taking that allotted time for a lunch break is highly encouraged amidst a work day. Not only are they important for the health of not only the company but the employee.

The federal wage and hour law, called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), does not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks. State laws vary and most employers honor breaks. 

However, companies can truly benefit from allowing and requiring employees to take break periods. Benefits of a lunch break in a workday often include:

• Fueled brain
• Heightened energy levels
• Boost in productivity 
• Greater concentration and cognition
• Strengthened bonds with coworkers
• Lowered stress and anxiety
• Lifted mood and overall mental health

The question is: Are you really getting the most benefit you can out of your lunch break throughout the workweek?

If tired of just sitting at the desk or aimlessly waiting for the hour to pass by, here are simple tips on how to spend that lunch break time more effectively with health benefits in mind!

From dividing your time include a walk to eating a healthy and balanced meal, learn how to make the most out of that lunch break each day. 

Not only will you feel more energized and productive, but you can reap some serious health benefits!

Heavy lunches can sit in the belly for hours in the afternoon, which can lead to sluggishness and desire for a nap. This may ultimately cause an unproductive afternoon and weight gain. 

Instead, of going for that rich cheeseburger and fries, consider preparing a healthy lunch for work such as:

Waldorf chicken salad: A lightened chicken salad using shredded chicken, Greek yogurt, mustard, grapes, celery, and walnuts.

Pizza pita pockets: Halved pitas stuffed with turkey pepperoni, bell pepper, cheese, and spices.

Cucumber sushi: Cucumber slices topped with sushi rice, crab, avocado, and red pepper.

Thai lettuce wraps: Boston bibb lettuce filled with lean ground turkey seasoned with garlic, onion, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.

Southwestern zucchini noodle bowl: Zucchini noodles layered with chicken breast, beans, corn, and other fresh veggies.

If grabbing lunch with fellow office workers, have a game plan in mind before heading out. Scoping the menu beforehand can help ensure healthier choices are made at lunch. Try to choose walkable places whenever possible to get more steps in the day.

Eat lunch at your desk? This is all too common amongst the workplace, especially if working tirelessly on that big company project.

But if hurrying to eat to get back to the project, there is a greater risk of feeling dissatisfied with that meal. This can lead you to reach for more food and overeating. Besides, it takes the mind and stomach approximately 20 minutes to connect the "I'm full" feeling. Slowing down and enjoying the meal at hand can keep hunger in check.

So step from behind the desk and attentively enjoy a meal elsewhere. Besides, there are many places to eat, including these ideas:

• Moving to a designated eating space such as a break room. 
• Having a picnic with coworkers outside.
• Looking for healthier restaurants in the area and meeting a friend.

All-in-all, breaking from work and changing the scenery can also be just the trick for reviving energy for the latter half of the day!

Most lunch periods are allotted 30 minutes to an hour. While this might not seem like a great deal of time, successfully conquering a lunch break can be both efficient and meaningful.

Not to mention, time can be divided to maximize productivity and honor self-care during lunch breaks. In addition to eating a balanced meal, ways to spend your lunch break include:

• Going on a walk with coworkers.
• Stepping outside in nature.
• Meditating or deep breathing.
• Enjoying a lunch-time workout.

That lunch hour is a perfect time to squeeze in some physical activity. Besides, there are many ways to get active at work, including structured and unstructured lunchtime workouts.

If a company gym is available, great! And if not, no problem! Simply participate in bodyweight exercises, including squats, lunges, pushups, dips, sit-ups, and planks.

Also, bring a gym bag and transportable equipment of your own. An exercise ball, resistance bands, a jump rope, and suspension trainers are just a few examples. Enjoy yoga? Bring in your mat!

Other active things to do during breaks or throughout the workday include:

• Taking the steps if available.
• Walking the longer route to the bathroom.
• Recommending walk meetings with office workers. 
• Parking further away to the entryway.

All-in-all, employees who work through lunch may be compromising their personal health and that of the company. Honor that allotted lunch break and reap some major rewards!