An Appetite For Lunch Breaks: What’s On Your Menu?


As a preschooler, it was all about snack time.

Throughout grade school, I went to the cafeteria for lunch.

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During my senior year I thoroughly enjoyed (and often exploited) my “senior privileges” that enabled me to leave school grounds and go out for lunch at nearby O’John’s East – an upscale diner on Madison Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets in New York City. I’d opt for scrambled eggs and fries, my friend Elena would order a toasted bagel with butter and an O’Doul’s, and my friend Kim was the wild card, though I do recall she was fond of the Monte Cristo sandwich platter.

While attending Tulane, I enjoyed hanging out at The Boot feasting on cheeseburgers with extra pickles or pizza by the slice next door at Dino’s for my afternoon meals.

As a professional, one of my first jobs was working at Seventeen Magazine. I treasured my lunch hour, stealing away to The Brasserie on 53rd Street off Park Avenue to eat like a lady, before having to return to the Third Avenue office to face the high school cattiness that pervaded the “fashion closets” and office cubicles.

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As an on-air TV reporter in Las Vegas; Amarillo, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Houston; and Atlanta, I rarely had time for lunch. If my photographer and I found 10 minutes to grab a slice of pizza, it was a slow day. In Charleston, I basically lived on mini coffee cakes courtesy of an office vending machine that was replenished every week. I would stockpile them in my desk drawers and eat them between the afternoon broadcasts.

I discovered the “power lunch” as a reporter for The New York Post when covering the Robert Durst murder trial in Galveston, Texas. Every afternoon you’d find me and my friend Kevin Moran, who used to write for The Houston Chronicle, at Rudy & Paco’s that was located a few blocks from the Galveston County Courthouse. I’d chow down on ricotta stuffed ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes and rub shoulders with high-profile attorneys jockeying for a scoop.

Nowadays, my “working lunch” takes place at my desk in my home office – usually doggie bag leftovers from dinner the night before.

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For me taking a lunch break never felt like a priority, but according to a recent survey conducted by Tork, an Essity brand, nearly 90 percent of American employees find lunch breaks refreshing and helps them face the rest of the day when back to work.

The brand’s award-winning program, Take Back the Lunch Break, analyzed Millennial lunch behavior and found:

• Millennials, who make up the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, feel more pressure to not take a lunch break than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts, impacting their productivity, engagement and job satisfaction. They are three times more likely than Baby Boomers to believe coworkers would judge them negatively if they took a regular lunch break.

• 62 percent of Millennials would opt for a longer or more regular lunch break if possible, compared to 46 percent of Baby Boomers.

• 44 percent of Millennials strongly agree that they look forward to taking a lunch break, compared to 36 percent of Gen X employees.

• 16 percent of Millennials would take a pay cut of 10 percent so they could take a lunch break every day, which is nearly double the percentage of Gen X employees and more than three times the percentage of Baby Boomers.

According to Fast Company there are eight reasons (and ways) to take a lunch break: eat the right foods for better brain function; take a real break for greater concentration; get a dose of mindfulness and do nothing but eat (translation: sit quietly, eat and meditate); take a nap to improve your memory; work out because the afternoon is the best time for exercise; spend time in nature to refresh your attention span; move to a café after lunch for improved creativity (the magazine found “the ambient sound of a café has been shown to be the most beneficial sound level for creativity”); and get active on social media to distract from the stress of the day.

What do you do on your lunch break?

These busy co-workers at New Orleans SEO and digital marketing agency Search Influence shared what’s on their menu:

• Alula Amare, Digital Copy Editor: “I bike to work most days. Having my bike with me means I can do a lot in an hour. Office buildings tend to be cold, so it’s nice to take a break outside and defrost. When I pack my lunch, I often go for a ride to Lafayette Square or Louis Armstrong Park and find a nice, shady spot to eat. When I don’t pack my lunch, I’ll ride my bike to Rouses to pick up groceries and make a deli-quality sandwich.”

• Emily Breaux, Digital Copy Editor: “When I work from home, I like to use a portion of my lunch break to do a 15-20 minute yoga workout. There are so many great, custom videos on YouTube (shout out to Yoga With Adriene!) that fit a productive, heart-pumping yoga flow in less than 30 minutes. I always feel refreshed, energized and calm when I’m done. Most videos end with a few minutes of meditation. I love having that ‘required’ quiet time where I can truly relax and refocus for the rest of my day.”

• David Fransen, Senior Web Developer: “I love to cook, and I have an uncanny inability to cook in small, reasonable quantities. As such, I tend to treat lunch as my ‘primary’ meal for the day, and I’ll typically spend a Saturday or Sunday cooking for the week. So my work lunch always feels like a nice payoff every day. During the actual lunch hour, I’m almost always buried in a book with headphones on, just trying to put myself somewhere else for a little while so I can come back to my work with fresh eyes.”

• Christine Robért, Account Team Lead: “I spent the last 20 years in the veterinary field where I was able to bring my ‘fuzzy kids’ with me to work every day. Entering a new field of work and not having the ability to do this has been an adjustment. My significant other works from home and takes pictures and/ or videos of our fuzzies and sends them to me right before lunch so I can spend a few minutes during my lunch break to smile and laugh at them. This helps me center, reboot my brain and get ready to tackle the rest of the day.”

• Anita Shah, Account Manager: “I like to use my lunch break to do something productive outside of work so that I can relax when I get home. With my wedding only days away, that’s on the top of my list right now! Lately, I’ve been spending lunch finalizing some details, like seating arrangements and decorations. This way, when I get home, I can relax knowing I’ve been productive in both my professional and personal life.”

• Ariel Tusa, Account Supervisor: “For me, a successful lunch break begins the night before when I take the time to make my lunch or pack leftovers. That way I know I have something to look forward to and don’t have to buy an expensive lunch downtown. As a member of the account management team I spend most of my day in meetings or in front of a screen, so I prefer to take a quiet, screen-free lunch and read a good book. This alone time allows me to recharge my energy and feel more productive when I get back to work.”

• Alison Zeringue, Director of Account Management: “Right now, I have two small children in daycare Monday through Friday while my husband and I both work full time. As much as I’d love to get in a nap during lunch, often I use the time to take care of household ‘To Dos’ like scheduling doctor’s appointments, placing orders using Shipt or Target’s Drive Up to minimize errand-running time outside of work. For me, it’s about maximizing the amount of time and energy I have to give my girls when we’re together, and not having to worry about all the small things.”

(PRNewsfoto/Tork, an Essity brand)

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