8 Quick Tips To Liven Up Your Lunch And Boost Productivity 

The midday meal is an important part of every working person's day. Not only does it provide you with the energy to power through the afternoon, but lunch also serves as a nice mental break to recharge. 

However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of boring sandwiches day after day. And those sad desk lunches can leave you feeling drained when it’s time to get back at it. 

The good news is, it doesn’t take much effort to liven up your lunch break and give your productivity levels a solid boost. Read on for 8 quick tips to make lunchtime more delicious and inspiring.

1.Prep Ahead For Instant Variety 

The easiest route to lunch boredom is scraping together a meal at the last minute. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll likely default to whatever is quickest. 

Beat the clock (and the boredom) by prepping some ready-to-grab ingredients and dishes over the weekend. Here are some great make-ahead options[1][2]

  • Cook extra protein like chicken breasts, hard-boiled eggs, or plant-based burgers. Having protein-building blocks on hand makes it simple to assemble a balanced meal.
  • Wash and chop vegetables so they are ready to throw in a salad, sauté as a side, or mix into a grain bowl. Go-to veggies that store well include bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and snap peas. 
  • Cook whole grains such as brown rice, farro, or quinoa. Then portion them out so you can quickly heat and add to dishes all week long. 
  • Roast vegetables. Toss vegetables like Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, beets, or winter squash in olive oil and spices. Roast at 400°F until tender and lightly browned. Store in the fridge to add to salads, sandwiches, bowls, and more. 

Having prepped ingredients and easy protein on hand makes throwing together a tasty, satisfying lunch a total breeze.

2.Ditch the Desk And Change Your Scenery 

Staring at the same desk or office walls while you eat can be draining. And if you spend all day in front of a computer screen, you probably don’t want to eat there too.

Getting outside for a change of scenery is an instant mood booster. Research shows that spending time in nature reduces stress, improves mood, and increases focus and creativity[3]

Here are two easy ways to take your lunch al fresco[3]

  • Picnic in the park. Scope out a nice outdoor spot nearby like a garden, courtyard, or lawn. Pack your meal in an easy-to-carry bento box or container and head outside to dine. 
  • Take a walking lunch break. Rather than sitting in the breakroom, get some exercise while you eat. Pack your meal in portable containers and take a brisk walk around the neighborhood while noshing. 

And if weather or time don’t permit an outdoor escape? Look for an alternate place to dine indoors like an unused conference room, lobby, or building atrium. Any change from your regular workspace can provide a nice mental shift.

3.Liven Things Up With Lunchtime Learning 

Feed your brain while you feed your belly by turning lunch into an opportunity for growth. Rather than scrolling social media or staring into space, devote your break to learning something new. 

Studies show learning directly before sleep and lunch are the best times for memory retention[4]. So put that midday brain power to good use! 

  • Read an article or listen to a podcast episode on a work-related or personal growth topic during lunch. Whether it’s a new project management strategy or interview tips, use the time to stuff your brain instead of just your sandwich. 
  • Take an online class. Enroll in a quick online learning course in a specialized skill like data analysis, graphic design, or marketing. Chip away at a lesson during your lunch break so you come back energized and armed with new knowledge. 
  • Learn a new language. Use a language learning app to master conversational skills in Spanish, French, German, or whatever tongue strikes your fancy. Consistent short lessons over lunch will have you chatting in no time! 

Lunchtime learning keeps your brain just as nourished as your body. And integrating new knowledge and skills directly benefits your productivity.

4.Make It A Social Event 

Eating solo hunched over your computer? That kind of sad desk lunch is bound to drain you. 

Flipping it into a social event can have the opposite effect - making lunch way more re-energizing. Human connection boosts mood and motivation in powerful ways[5].

Here are two suggestions for making lunch more social[5]

  • Host an office lunch club. Organize a weekly group to eat together in the office kitchen or head out to a nearby cafe. Chat about non-work topics and get to know each other better. 
  • Have a lunch date. If you work from home, schedule regular virtual lunch dates with friends. Enjoy each other’s company while eating your respective meals. 

Social lunches give you a mental vacation from work and an energy recharge from quality conversations. They are one of the quickest ways to make midday more inspiring and fun!

5.Take Your Tastebuds On An Adventure 

Bored by the same old lunch rotation? It might be time to give your tastebuds a world tour! 

Exploring new cuisines is one of the most exciting ways to spice up your midday meal. With endless flavor possibilities, the globe is your lunchtime oyster. 

Here is a “passport” full of delicious destinations for your lunch palette[6]: Asia 

  • Japanese - sushi rolls, miso soup, teriyaki 
  • Thai - curry dishes, pad thai, summer rolls 
  • Indian - palak paneer, chana masala, vegetable biryani 

The Mediterranean 

  • Greek - spanakopita, roasted lamb, tzatziki sauce 
  • Italian - paninis, caprese salad, veggie pasta 
  • Middle Eastern - tabbouleh, hummus, shawarma 

Mexico and South America 

  • Mexican - tacos, quesadillas, guacamole 
  • Brazilian - feijoada stew, pão de queijo, coconut rice 
  • Peruvian - ceviche, lomo saltado, quinoa salad 

And More... 

  • Ethiopian - doro wat, red lentil stew, injera flatbread 
  • Cajun - jambalaya, blackened fish, gumbo 
  • Southern BBQ - pulled pork, baked beans, collard greens

With so many new flavors to experience, you could eat ethnic cuisine every day and never get bored! Trying international lunches is an easy way to break out of a midday rut.

6.Get Creative In The Kitchen 

Maybe you’re tired of takeout and restaurant food. Or you want lunches that are extra healthy, sustainable, and budget-friendly. 

The solution? Embrace your inner lunch chef! 

Whipping up homemade dishes lets you control the ingredients. And it saves money compared to eating out. 

Unleash your culinary creativity to cook lunches that are delicious, wholesome, and unique.

Try inventive versions of classics[7]

  • Zucchini noodle carbonara 
  • Cauliflower fried rice 
  • Veggie lasagna roll-ups 
  • Bean & quinoa chili 

Experiment with global flavors[7]

  • Thai coconut curry with tofu 
  • Chicken shawarma wraps 
  • Greek stuffed peppers 
  • Thai noodle salad 

Blend favorite ingredients in bowls[7]

  • Burrito - rice, beans, salsa, guac 
  • Buddha - greens, avocado, chickpeas 
  • Harvest - quinoa, roasted veggies, nuts & seeds 
  • Mediterranean - greens, hummus, olives, feta 

Home cooking empowers you to make lunch an ever-changing daily adventure. Have fun with inventive upgrades to familiar meals or exotic ingredients from around the world. 

Let your imagination run wild! Then nourish your productivity with homemade cuisine all week long.

7.Make Grazing Your Midday Style

Who says lunch has to be just one meal? Take a grazing approach for an energizing – and delicious – afternoon. 

Grazing combines smaller dishes, snacks, and sides for steady fuel and sustained mental stamina. 

Ditch the large heaviness of a big plate for lighter bites you can nibble throughout the afternoon. Here’s how to graze your way to an awesomely productive post-lunch day: Stock your workstation with bites like[8]

  • Nut mixes trail mix 
  • Fresh fruits and veggies 
  • Hummus with snap pea crisps 
  • Cottage cheese and crackers 
  • Apple slices with nut butter 
  • Greek yogurt with chia seeds 
  • Edamame pods 
  • Bean & cheese quesadillas 
  • Hard-boiled eggs 

Supplement with a heartier afternoon meal like[8]

  • Veggie & quinoa salad 
  • Turkey avocado sandwich 
  • Lentil veggie soup 
  • Burrito bowl 
  • Falafel wrap 

Grazing provides a continuum of lasting energy vs the spike and crash from one heavy meal. It’s sustainable fuel for a marathon, not a sprint! 

Embrace the graze to take your productivity from lagging to outstanding all afternoon long.

8. Make It Quick, Make It Easy 

Some days, you just don’t have time for an elaborate lunch. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for anything boring or unsatisfying to get back to work. 

With a little creativity, you can make easy lunches that still tantalize your tastebuds and give you that refueling you need. 

Here are two strategies for quick, delicious lunches on time-crunched days[7]:

Keep a stash of instant meals like: 

  • Frozen burritos - pop one in the microwave for an instant meal on the go 
  • Pre-cooked quinoa cups - just heat and add prepped vegetables and protein 
  • Canned soup - pour into a mug with crackers or cheese for instant comfort and fuel 
  • Salad kits or veggie/grain pre-prepped bowls - open the package and your work is done! 

Assemble easy no-cook lunches: 

  • Hummus veggie wraps 
  • Bean salad stuffed in a pita 
  • Leftover dinner grains tossed with chopped veggies, cheese, nuts, and dressing 
  • Open-faced avocado toast heaped with vegetables and black beans 
  • Peanut butter and fresh berries rolled up in a whole-wheat tortilla 

With the right kind of easy-prep ingredients and grab-and-go dishes, even the busiest days don’t have to mean a boring lunch! 

Taking a lunch break and eating a balanced diet are essential for maintaining good health and productivity.

Rev Up Your Afternoons! 

As you can see, quick and clever lunchtime tweaks can make all the difference when it comes to restoring focus and energy. 

So break free from the midday doldrums! Try out these 8 tips to liven up your lunches and power up your afternoons. 

From scenic picnics and international cuisine to socializing and kitchen creativity - the possibilities to make lunch more inspiring are endless. Pick one or try them all for a week. 

Then sit back and enjoy the sweet, savory rewards of more motivated and productive days!

References: 

[1] Klein, Laura, and Kimberly Parks. “Home Meal Preparation: A Powerful Medical Intervention.” American journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 14,3 282-285. 1 Mar. 2020, doi:10.1177/1559827620907344 

[2] Skerrett, Patrick J, and Walter C Willett. “Essentials of healthy eating: a guide.” Journal of midwifery & women's health vol. 55,6 (2010): 492-501. doi:10.1016/j.jmwh.2010.06.019 

[3] Clarke, Katie et al. “A Change of Scenery: Does Exposure to Images of Nature Affect Delay Discounting and Food Desirability?.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 12 782056. 6 Dec. 2021, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.782056

[4] de Bloom, Jessica et al. “Exposure to nature versus relaxation during lunch breaks and recovery from work: development and design of an intervention study to improve workers' health, well-being, work performance and creativity.” BMC public health vol. 14 488. 22 May. 2014, doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-488 

[5] Odencrants, Sigrid et al. “"The meal is an activity involving at least two people"-Experiences of meals by older persons in need of elderly care.” Nursing open vol. 7,1 265-273. 29 Oct. 2019, doi:10.1002/nop2.387 

[6] “VA.gov | Veterans Affairs.” Va.gov, 2014, www.nutrition.va.gov/Recipes.asp

[7] Nilson, Carolyn. Lunch and learn: creative and easy-to-use activities for teams and work groups. John Wiley & Sons, 2005. 

[8] Hewlett, Paul, Andrew Smith, and Eva Lucas. "Grazing, cognitive performance and mood." Appetite 52.1 (2009): 245-248.