The ACNeilsen Omnibus poll of 1400 Australian consumers shows that people are more time-pressed than ever, with only 16 per cent taking at least 45 minutes out of their day to eat lunch. One in five Australians eat their lunch while at their desk or on the move and one in 10 rarely or never have the meal.
For those that skip lunch, 43 per cent said they did not have time to go out or make themselves something to eat, underlining the growing demand for convenience foods and portable snacks.
The more work responsibilities people have, the more likely they are to claim they cannot find time for lunch, revealed the poll. 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.
One in five men who do not lunch think that this helps them lose weight.
For those who do eat lunch, however, many go for unhealthy choices. Hot chips are popular (24 per cent said they eat chips at least once a week) as well as hamburgers (19 per cent) and meat pies (19 per cent).
The results also confirm that young people are the most frequent consumers of snack food at lunchtime.
More than half of all 18-24 year-olds surveyed said they eat snack food for lunch once a week, with 46 per cent choosing toasted foccacia, 44 per cent a hamburger, 29 per cent sausage rolls and 26 per cent meat pies and Chinese takeaway.
Men and blue-collar workers are also more likely than women and white-collar workers to opt for unhealthy lunches.
The research was carried out to support the inaugural Australian Lunch Week, initiated by cereal and soymilk maker Sanitarium and the charities Nutrition Australia and Fitness Australia.
Sanitarium dietitian Cathy McDonald 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."