With all the emphasis we put on healthy eating, we often overlook one of the most important factors: when we eat our biggest meals of the day. The standard American diet is very dinner-focused, which is one of the biggest culprits for weight gain, poor quality sleep, low energy, and a buildup of toxins in the system. You may be surprised to learn that not only is this way of unhealthy, it is also unnatural. Most traditional cultures eat by a very different schedule, which is actually much more natural for the body, and promotes healthy weight, metabolism, detoxification, and energy.
Breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, but it is definitely vital for starting the day off right, with balanced blood sugar and an active metabolism. Breakfast should be big enough to keep you satisfied until lunchtime, which will keep your energy levels high throughout the first part of the day, and prevent unnecessary snacking. Opt for a combination of healthy protein and fat (like eggs, nuts or nut butter, or avocado) and healthy carbs (whole grains, fruit, and/or veggies).
Our bodies are designed to consume the majority of the day’s calories in the first part of the day, and our strong digestion at midday makes lunch the perfect time for the day’s biggest meal. Historically, across most cultures, lunch was always the biggest meal of the day, in fact, the root of the word ‘dinner’ actually means lunch. Eat a dinner-sized lunch every day, with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and some protein. Make lunch satisfying enough to get you through to dinner without feeling hungry or needing a snack, and say goodbye to that 4pm energy slump.
The evening is when our digestion and metabolism naturally start to slow down, so our bodies really aren’t able to properly digest a big heavy meal. After a big, satisfying and balanced lunch, a light supper is just what your body needs. Opt for easily digestible meals like a soup, a salad, or some lightly cooked veggies. This ensures that your body isn’t expending valuable energy trying to digest a big meal while you’re trying to sleep, when the body needs to naturally detoxify, recuperate, and rebuild. The lighter your supper, the more energized you’ll feel in the morning.
By eating three balanced meals a day comprised of healthy, whole foods, you eliminate the need for snacking, which is where a lot of us get in trouble. Steer clear of the empty calories in processed snack foods like chips, cookies, energy bars, baked goods, or candy. A diet of clean, whole foods like vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and some lean, clean protein like beans and legumes, low-mercury fish, and some fermented soy actually helps you stay fuller longer and gives you all the nutrients your body needs for optimum health!
When we rush through our meals, or eat in a distracted, stressed-out state, we are unable to properly digest our food, and our brains have trouble registering fullness. Eating in a relaxed, mindful state keeps us fuller longer, helps us digest and metabolize food better, prevents overeating, and makes meals a much more enjoyable experience.
Skipping meals is a one-way ticket to unstable blood sugar levels, cravings, overeating, fatigue, and general crankiness. To keep your metabolism running and burning fat all day long, make sure to eat your three meals every single day, with the biggest focus on lunch. No time for breakfast? Just grab a couple slices of whole grain toast with almond butter and a piece of fruit for a quick, balanced meal.
Protein (especially animal sources) fried or fatty foods, and heavy starch or grain-based meals take longer for the body to digest, so these are not good choices for your evening meal. Going to bed with lots of undigested food in your system leads to weight gain and gets in the way of deep, restful sleep. Stick to light, vegetarian meals after 5pm.
Contrary to popular opinion, snacking actually causes more blood sugar instability, by making the body reliant on constant fuel to burn. By eating three, solid meals a day, your blood sugar is stable and consistent throughout the day, and your body goes into fat burning mode between meals, which is ideal for reaching and maintaining healthy weight. If your main meals aren’t satisfying enough, you experience ups and downs in your blood sugar levels, which is stressful for your system and can lead to consuming more overall calories throughout the day.
Midnight snackers beware: what you eat after the sun goes down has a much bigger impact on your waistline and your energy levels than what you eat in the first part of the day. Having a bowl of cereal for breakfast, or an oatmeal cookie for dessert after lunch leaves your body plenty of time to burn off what you ate and metabolize the sugars. If you eat those same foods before bed, when your digestion is slower, those foods will be more likely to contribute to your problem areas.
Eating a light supper can be a bit of a transition for some people, especially if you’re used to big dinners. To help you feel satisfied after your light meal and prevent you from going back for snacks or dessert afterward, make sure to eat at the table and not on the couch! Just like eating while working, eating in front of the TV prevents your system from registering fullness and can lead to overeating. So set the table, sit down, and savor a light, delicious meal with your loved ones.
Eating right is about so much more than just what you put in your mouth. Eating the majority of your day’s calories in the first part of the day not only more natural for your system, but it is also scientifically proven to promote weight loss and increased energy. Enjoy three, balanced, satisfying meals a day to keep your blood sugar stable and your metabolism humming. By following this traditional approach to eating, and by eating a diet of fresh, whole foods, you will live longer, feel more energized, and maintain the body you love!
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