Why you should actually break for lunch

Experts say you should carve out time for a healthy midday meal.

Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, an author and a CNN health and nutrition contributor.

(CNN)If you've been trying to eat healthfully, you've probably heard about the benefits of eating breakfast. But you might be wondering whether it's also important to pause for a midday lunch break -- even with a very busy schedule.

"Carving out time for a satiating, balanced lunch can really help organize the eating day and keep us in better touch with our actual hunger cues," said registered dietitian nutritionist Tamara Duker Freuman. "So we can eat when hungry and be less likely to snack our way through the entire workday."
Even if it's just for 30 minutes or so, a midday lunch break "will help to avoid a late afternoon slump and keep you energized throughout the afternoon," said registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa Young, author of "Finally Full, Finally Slim."
    Skipping lunch can cause more than hunger pangs, low blood sugar and irritability. It will also almost guarantee that you consume the majority of your calories in the evening. That can wreak havoc on your waistline and health, according to Freuman. It can contribute to sleep problems, too.
      "I often find that patients who struggle with excess, uncontrollable night eating find it much easier to manage when they are heading into the dinner meal feeling quite satiated and not particularly starving, because they've had a great breakfast and a very filling, balanced lunch," Freuman said.

      How to make time for lunch

      You're off to a good start with a salad for lunch. But try getting away from your desk to eat your midday meal.
      Taking time for lunch doesn't have to mean preparing a big meal. The key is thinking about lunch as any other appointment during your day and planning for it from the moment you wake up.
        Planning your lunches will help ensure that you won't get cravings for junk food when your blood sugar starts to sink.
        First, select an approximate time that you will break for lunch. Next, figure out what it is you will eat. If you are working from home, it's a good idea to prep lunch the night before, so you can just grab it from the fridge when it's time to break for a bite.
        While a noon lunch break may not work for everyone, it's a good idea to avoid eating lunch in the late afternoon, especially if you are trying to manage your weight. In one study involving 420 individuals with obesity, those who ate lunch before 3 p.m. lost more weight than later lunch eaters during a five-month period, despite eating the same number of calories and comparable amounts of fat, protein and carbohydrates.