Why Taking a Lunch Break Can Boost Your Career

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Be honest: how many days each week do you actually take a lunch break? While you might think that working through lunch will show your boss that you're a model employee, skipping a much-needed midday break might actually have the opposite effect by wearing you out.

"A lunch break is important for your physical and mental health," says psychologist Frank J. Sileo, executive director for The Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, N.J. "Studies have shown that taking a lunch break can reduce stress. Time for relaxation away from work has also been correlated with heightened productivity and creativity."

If you generally work through lunch or only take a short break, you're not alone. According to a recent survey by OfficeTeam, a global staffing service, nearly half (48%) of U.S. workers said their typical lunch break lasts 30 minutes or less.

However, experts say that lunch breaks should ideally be at least 30 to 45 minutes—and strongly advise spending that time away from your desk.

"When you eat at your desk, it does not really constitute a real break from work and may involve doing a host of work-related tasks such as answering the phone and responding to emails while eating," says Sileo. "Eating at your desk may also lead to overeating, because when you are working at your desk you may not pay attention to what and how much you are eating."

When choosing what to eat for lunch, avoid sugary, greasy foods and instead opt for a nutritious, well-balanced meal.

"We advocate eating low-carb, high natural fat foods that help maintain blood sugar levels and minimize stress," says John Salerno, M.D., director of The Salerno Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City.

Aside from eating, beneficial activities to enjoy during your lunch break include taking a walk, working out at the gym or going to a quiet room to practice yoga or meditation, says stress and mindful living consultant Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Mindful Living Network and The Stress Institute.