News Release

The healthiest lunch choice at work

Study in Japan reveals the best nutritional choices for lunch at work

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Toho University

Graphical Abstract of the study


The nutritional characteristics of lunches consumed by Japanese workers differ depending on where the meal is usually prepared or eaten.

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Credit: Dr. Minami Sugimoto

A survey conducted in Tokyo, Japan, found that workers having lunch at company cafeteria or bringing homemade lunch are making nutritionally better choices compared to those who utilize take-away options or restaurants.

Dietary habits have an immense influence on one's health in the long run. Thus, where and what to have for lunch is a crucial decision for people at the workplace. However, research examining the nutritional characteristics of employees' lunches is limited. A research group, led by Dr. Minami Sugimoto, Prof. Keiko Asakura, and Prof. Yuji Nishiwaki from Toho University Faculty of Medicine, conducted a questionnaire survey among employees at eight offices in southeast Tokyo. The aim was to investigate the differences in the nutritional characteristics of lunches consumed by working individuals. The questions included details about who usually prepares lunch, where lunch is eaten, the amount spent on lunch, the time lunch is started, and working patterns. In addition, usual food and nutrient intakes from lunch in a previous month were assessed by a validated diet-history questionnaire for individual participants.

For 620 employees aged 20 to 75, classified into four groups: homemade group (n=190), staff canteen group (n=77), restaurant group (n=109), and takeaway group (n=244), the researchers calculated the Healthy Eating Index-2015 score, a score that assesses the quality of nutritional intake. The researchers then compared the Healthy Eating Index-2015 score from lunch intake between groups.

They found that individuals who primarily consume homemade lunch boxes or utilize the company cafeteria tend to have lunches with relatively higher nutritional quality compared to those who frequently eat out or opt for take-out meals. 

“This study is the first to examine the nutritional attributes of lunches among Japanese workers. We hope that our findings promote healthier dietary habits in office workers, especially those who find it challenging to prepare homemade lunches,” said Dr. Sugimoto, the leading author of the study. 

The results of this study were published on January 6, 2024, in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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