While most Australians think that eating a substantial, healthy lunch is important, one in three skip this vital meal at least once a week, and one in 10 rarely or never have it.
A new ACNeilsen Omnibus poll of 1400 Australians shows that people engaged in home duties are most likely to skip lunch; with almost half those surveyed (46%) doing so at least once in the past week.
Too busy is the catch-cry of lunch-skippers - 43% said they didn't have time to go out or make themselves something to eat. A further 20% said they weren't hungry at lunchtime while another one in ten (11%) said they had too many personal tasks to do to fit food into their break.
The more work responsibilities people have, the more likely they are to claim they can't do lunch. More than half the respondents on annual salaries of $60,000 or more said they were simply too busy.
Only a handful of those surveyed blamed their lack of lunch on takeaways being too expensive, fattening or unavailable in their area. Nor were they worried about being perceived as slacking off at work if they take time out. One in five men who don't lunch (21%) think skipping lunch helps them lose weight compared to only 13% of women. Of the one in ten people who rarely eat lunch, more than half (55%) don't think it's important as long as they have a good dinner.
Sanitarium Dietitian, Cathy McDonald, said the research shows that many Australians are clearly not making lunch - and their health - a priority.
"It's essential that we all make time to put our health - and our children's health - first, said Ms McDonald. "Eating lunch assists in ensuring you get all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need each day to keep healthy.
"A lunch that is high in fibre, low in fat, and is based on low GI foods also provides the long-lasting energy to help avoid the mid-afternoon slump and keep us feeling good through the day.
"Taking time out can also help improve concentration levels, enable time for building relationships and even build fitness levels if you do some exercise during your break.
More concerning is what people are actually eating for lunch. Almost two thirds (61%) eat takeaways during the week, with hot chips (24%), hamburgers (19%) and meat pies (19%) top of the menu.
More 18-24 year olds eat takeaway food than any other age group. About once a week more than half (52%) eat snack food for lunch, 46% munch on toasted foccacia, 44% a hamburger, 43% hot chips, 41% a chicken burger, 29% sausage rolls and 26% meat pies and Chinese takeaway.
Men outnumber women in the fast food stakes with 28% of men having hot chips and meat pies once a week compared to 19% of women eating hot chips and 11% meat pies.
Blue-collar workers are more likely than white-collar workers to eat unhealthy lunch options.
Almost a third (30%) of people on home duties eat hot chips every week, with a further 20% biting into burgers, 18% kebabs and 17% sausage rolls.
The ACNeilsen Omnibus poll shows only 16% of Australians take between 45 minutes and an hour for lunch. One in three people have a 20 to 30 minute lunch break with a further one in five spending less than 20 minutes. Five percent don't stop for lunch at all.
And one in five Australians eat their lunch while at their desk or on the move.
Cathy McDonald said the study confirms that few people are taking the traditional lunch hour and many have a rushed lunch break.
"This might seem great for productivity, but a rushed lunch-time means people are missing out on important health benefits both from a nutritional, stress management and a relaxation perspective," she said.
"It's important for us to realise that taking time to eat lunch is critical to maintaining health. A healthy lunch is important to control weight, boosting energy and concentration levels, as well as feeling better overall."