How Should I Eat? Food Choices and Timing of Meals and Snacks
This guest post graciously submitted by Julie Masci.
As a dietitian, I get a lot of questions from clients about when and what to eat. It’s easy to get confused about when and what to eat. Here are the basics of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks:
Breakfast will always be the most important meal of the day. Multiple research studies have shown that eating breakfast helps us eat less overall and keep our weight stable. Breakfast is important because it is the first opportunity your body has to “rev-up” the calorie burning engine and provides fuel for the rest of the day. People who don’t eat breakfast tend to have more difficulty concentrating and tend to eat more calories overall to compensate the calories missed at breakfast.
Breakfast should be eaten within an hour of waking up. Choose a whole grain like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, or cereal with at least 3g of fiber or more per serving. Protein is vital at breakfast to help increase satiety throughout the day and maintain blood sugar control. Good choices include nut butters (almond or peanut), yogurt, or eggs. Breakfast is also a great place to get in one fruit serving, so add your favorite fruit like fresh berries or an orange.
Many people get busy during the day and forget to eat lunch. This causes blood sugar to drop too low and can lead to over eating later in the day. Lunch should be eaten approximately 4-5 hours after breakfast, if more hours pass, then you may need a mid-morning snack. Lunch should be a bigger meal than dinner because you still have an opportunity to burn the calories consumed.
An ideal lunch includes at least two servings of fruits and vegetables, a whole grain, and at least 100g of lean protein.Some examples include a large salad with a variety of colorful vegetables, topped with 100g of tuna, an olive oil based dressing, served with a whole grain roll on the side. Or try for a cold quinoa salad with chopped vegetables like green beans and tomatoes with 100g of grilled chicken on top.
Dinner can be an important social meal as many families don’t usually eat other meals together. But, dinner should be one of the lightest meals of the day as most people are not very active after dinner. At dinner ½ your plate should always be vegetables either raw or steamed. Add 100g of lean protein such as chicken, fish, or beans. Round out the meal with a whole grain such as brown rice or quinoa. Choose water or low fat milk for beverages. Limit the consumption of alcohol or sweetened beverages which can add additional calories.
Snacks are vital to help prevent over eating later in the day when we go too many hours between meals. Snacks can be a great place to sneak in an extra serving of dairy, fruit, or vegetables. Have a snack when you going to go more than 5 hours between meals. Ideal snacks include whole grain crackers with low fat cheese and a piece of fruit. Or a variety of vegetables like cherry tomatoes, carrots, or celery and hummus dip. Yogurt with fresh berries is also a great snack.
The most important thing to sticking with any eating pattern is planning. Having healthy foods on hand when you are ready to eat makes meal planning and choices a snap! Remember to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day and include foods high in protein to help prevent hunger and keep blood sugar regulated.