4 Reasons Eating at Your Desk is Hurting Your Health

American workers often don’t take lunch breaks

Is the office lunch break going 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.

It’s a debate among Americans, where a fast-paced economy is the norm, but that’s not the case in 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 respect then barely squeezing in a meal at your cubicle.

Here are four reasons you must take a lunch break:

1. It Disturbs 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.

PLUS: Why How You Eat Matters Just as Much as What You Eat

2. It’s Not Sanitary

You may have washed your food, or prepared it with clean hands—but what about your workstation?

The lunchroom 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 lunchroom, but don’t neglect cleaning your keyboard and other surface areas on a regular basis.

If you do eat your food at your desk, you won’t be attracting unwelcomed bacteria.

3. It’s Distracting

You need a break! The desk may contain your computer, your phone, and that stack of paperwork you have to finish by 5 p.m. In our North American society, where multi-tasking is praised, people often forget that they can take a lunch break, and that most offices have lunchrooms.

People may even find they don’t even get a lot of work done while eating at the same time. If they do get a lot of work done, their food might lose its freshness. So, find balance with your food, and your day.

Take a moment to relax and be at peace with your food, void of distractions. Eat in a calm state of mind with nothing on your work plate, for at least 30 minutes, and plenty on your food plate.

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. You’ll Have Less Energy

When you don’t get proper nutrition, 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 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 Foods4BetterHealth 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.


Sources:
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/fight-germs?toptoctest=expand.
Muhammad, L., “More workers work through lunch or eat at their desks,” USA TODAY web site, April 13, 2013; http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/workplace/story/2012-04-15/lunch-at-work/54167808/1.