LifeSynch, a Humana subsidiary, offers extensive health behavior resources, including behavioral healthcare, employee assistance program (EAP)/work-life services, behavioral pharmacy services, health coaches and Web-based wellness tools. As part of their commitment to change health behaviors and improve lives, LifeSynch’s health coaches will be contributing a series of articles that demonstrate how easy it can be to make a healthy change.
How often do you actually take a break during lunch? Enough time to warm up your meal in the microwave and get back to your desk to answer more email and phone calls? Do you even remember to eat at all? Studies show that taking some time during the middle of the day to recharge and refocus helps us work more effectively the rest of the day.
What do you eat?
Fueling your body during lunch is critical in helping you stay on track the rest of the day. If you don’t eat a filling and healthful lunch you will be reaching for snacks and caffeinated beverages (many times filled with sugar) the rest of the day to compensate. Here are some suggestions for easy lunches that can be prepared ahead of time and will keep you going.
- Wrap/pita bread: Pretty much anything can be put into a wrap or pita bread and become a delicious meal. Try leftover grilled or roasted chicken, hummus, rice, veggies, lean freshly sliced deli meat, or peanut butter and jelly.
- Energy-packed salads: Lettuce, tomato, and cucumber with ranch won’t cut it. Like wraps, anything can go into a salad. Add any leftover meat, bean, vegetable, cubed and toasted whole grain bread, tuna or sardines. Add a few pieces of your favorite cheese, a handful of nuts or seeds, and you will have a delicious salad that will leave you energized.
- Tasting plates: This is a fun way to taste a lot of foods and leave you feeling satisfied and fueled. A great combination can include a handful of olives, a hardboiled egg, sliced pita bread with hummus or other healthful dip, a few bites of cheese, snap peas, a sliced apple and a few pieces of leftover prepared meat or tofu.
- Pasta salad: Use leftover whole grain pasta and a ton of chopped vegetables with a can of tuna and your favorite healthful salad dressing. Think you will miss mayonnaise? Try mixing a little mayo with plain Greek yogurt for a high-protein, low-fat dressing.
- Rice bowls: Throw in leftover meats, vegetables and beans with a few drizzles of lime or lemon juice and olive oil for a balanced meal that fits into an all-in-one container.
- Add a social element: Talk to co-workers who have the same mindset as you about sharing the the burden of bringing lunch and try different things – maybe as easy as the tasting plates suggested above?
OK, you have eaten … now move away from your desk!
- Taking time to eat a healthful, nutritious lunch is a good first step. But to fully recharge your mind and body, you need to move away from your work and take a real break.
- Walk up and down a few flights of stairs or do any exercise for 15 minutes without stopping. Set a timer if it will encourage you.
- Walk with a co-worker.
- Set an alarm for 15 minutes, and simply close your eyes.
- Write in a journal.
- Read a chapter of a book or look through cookbooks and plan next week’s meals.
- Work from home? Plant something in your backyard or patio or water your existing plants.
- What it is within walking/driving distance from you? Do you need to run an errand or is there a museum or park you could walk around in for 30 minutes?
- Learn to knit, crochet, or even color for 20 minutes to refresh your mind.
- Play a game! Challenge co-workers to a game of chess, checkers, cards or work on a puzzle.
If there are times that you simply can’t take a real lunch break, at least think of ways to change up your environment or body position for an energy and brain boost.
- Ask meeting participant(s) to walk with you while you talk. If a meeting is via phone, use a headset and at least stand while you talk. If you have the space, you could even do lunges and squats when you don’t need to be near a computer.
- Waiting for an urgent email to come in? Consider eating your lunch turned away from the computer, turn on some music and check your email every 10 minutes.
- Give yourself multiple breaks during the day if you cannot stay away for 30-60 minutes. Put a note on your calendar to walk away from your desk for 5 minutes at the end of each hour or 10 minutes every two hours – even if only to get a drink of water.
- Take 30 minutes once a week to organize and dust your desk or office. Not only will it keep you moving, but you will have a clean, uncluttered office.
Lacey Starkey, a learning facilitator and personal health coach/mentor at LifeSynch, a subsidiary of Humana, has a bachelor’s degree in wellness science and a master’s degree in health education. She is also a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors, exercising and staying active in her local community garden.