Millennials at Lunch: How Convenience and Nutrition (Don’t) Stack Up

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Eating lunch is one of my favorite parts of the day. Packing stuff for lunch, however, is one of my least favorite parts of the day. Deciding what to make and then actually preparing it is such a time-consuming task. If I didn’t love the taste of food so much, I’d opt for the most convenient option and take up Soylent as my main source of nutrition.

I do try, but I’ll admit that my lunch habits aren’t necessarily the best. Every so often, a burst of adulthood surges through my being, and I am great at meal planning. Usually, though, I find myself heating up a frozen Amy’s Mac & Cheese dish (not the most nutritious thing, but so convenient and so damn good) or devouring a hodge-podge of things I threw in my bag before heading out the door. About 35% of the time, I’ll spend out for lunch.

Here’s another major lunchtime offense: I eat at my desk nearly every single day, barely taking a moment to look away from my screen. And I know I’m not in the minority here. Only 1 in 5 people step away from their desks for lunch, according to a Right Management study cited by NPR. With millennials officially having surpassed Gen X as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, it’s safe to assume that most of us don’t take proper lunch breaks. (Studies show this is terrible for productivity, and that people should make an effort to at least go outside and take a brief walk so they get a change of environment.)

What about the babies?!

Convenience and time seem like major factors influencing our eating habits, but how do they affect the children of millennial parents? Yeah, hodge-podge lunches are fine for a grown dude, but it doesn’t bode well for a young child. Are young parents passing down these poor habits to their children?

Actually, they’re not. We know that about 65% of millennial women with children under the age of six work. And although these women might not be adopting the healthiest of lunch habits for themselves, they’re making sure their kids eat well at school. Eighty-eight percent of millennial moms reported in a recent Influenster survey that nutrition was an important factor when preparing their kids’ lunches, compared with 65% who said price was a factor and 52% who said convenience matters. In fact, 75% of millennial women surveyed said their lunch boxes are more nutritious than the ones their moms used to make.

It’s a different story once kids start to get older and are able to make their own decisions about food. Since school cafeterias have adopted federal nutrition standards, some school districts have reported that fewer students are buying school lunch, according to NPR. To many kids, the lunches they get from home are more appealing than what they get at school.

So while millennial moms are doing their best to instill great eating habits in their children, these kids will ultimately make their own decisions about food because, ya know, that’s what humans do.

Sooooo, what’s for lunch?

If you’re over sad desk lunches, set aside at least 20 minutes each morning to throw something together. If you usually spend Sundays lounging, check out /r/mealprepsunday and change your life. (I think I’ll shamelessly stick to my Amy’s Mac & Cheese dishes.) Most importantly, take at least 10-15 minutes each workday and get some air. You’re not doing anyone any favors by essentially burning out at your desk. If you’re an employer, encourage your workers to take breaks every so often and keep themselves healthy. It’ll be better for you in the long run, too.

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