taking your lunch break can actually make you a better employee

In our first March blog post, we took a look at how eating a nutritious breakfast can help ensure you’re starting your day with a healthier body and a healthier mind.

While hobbits and some others might subscribe to the idea of a second breakfast and even “elevenses” (Middle Earth’s spin on brunch) following breakfast, for the rest of us, lunch and dinner are the other cornerstone meals of our day. In today’s blog post, we’ll focus on how important these meals are as well.

Let’s start with lunch. For many of us during the weekday, lunch represents the first extended break during the school or workday, where we can sit with colleagues and peers and chat, grab a favourite meal at the restaurant down the road or escape the office, relax and eat a snack in the park. Not only is lunch important for keeping distracting hunger pangs at bay but taking your lunch break can actually make you a better employee. In a Harvard study of nurses, higher meal breaks were linked with lower psychological distress.

And as the Harvard Business Review explains, what you choose to lunch on can play a part in determining your productivity at your desk: eating foods that release glucose quickly, like fries or soda, can lead to mid-afternoon slumps. Choosing nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts or fish will leave you working smarter; not harder.

Another tip: if you have a cafeteria at school or work, try to choose what you’ll eat before you go to buy lunch (perhaps do some recon or find out the day’s menu ahead of time). This will help prevent you from submitting to cravings and spur of the moment decisions for foods that won’t give you the mental boost you need.

As for dinner, for those of us on the go, this can be the first meal of the day that we’re able to eat at home. With eating at home comes the benefit of a home cooked meal – but what if you’re not a culinary cavalier? Try taking a cooking class, which not only has social benefits but will equip you with the knowledge to take full advantage of healthy ingredients and whip up a nutritious meal. Studies show that people who cook and bake are more likely be happier and more enthusiastic about achieving goals. Similarly, a 2016 study found that teenagers with cooking skills were likely to have “better mental health, less depression and stronger family ties”.

Not to mention that on average, a home-cooked meal will cost less than take-out – reducing the mental health worsening effects of financial stress.

Another healthy dinner tip: try not to eat too late at night. In addition to several physical risks, like an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes or experiencing a heart attack, eating late can negatively affect your memory and increase your risk of “bizarre or disturbing” dreams.

Just like breakfast, lunch and dinner have an important part to play in establishing better mental health and helping you go further. Taking the time to eat right can help put you on the path to a happier and healthier you.

For some more healthy lunch and dinner ideas, check out the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s many resources here and take a look at the University of Waterloo’s handy student survival guide for studious snacking!

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