Regular Mealtimes - The Basics
On average, we eat 4-6 times each day – including snacks - with almost one third of food being eaten outside of the home. This trend of ‘eating on the go’ is predicted to grow.
It can often be difficult to find well balanced meals or snacks when out and about - you are more likely to eat a balanced meal when you are in control of what, and how much, you put on your plate.
More Facts...and a bit of history
- Eating regular low fat meals reduces total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduces resistance to insulin – reducing the overall risk of developing heart disease.
- Regular meal eaters tend to have a lower energy (calorie) intake compared to those who eat irregularly – crucial if you’re looking to maintain or lose weight.
- By eating regularly (meals and snacks) you will help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Why is this good? Because this will help prevent strong feelings of hunger, which could result in you over-eating the next time you eat (which is usually the time you reach for that chocolate bar, latte or muffin - or all 3!).
- Set meal times can be traced back to medieval times, when meals were eaten at firmly established times. Breakfast was early in the day, dinner at midday and supper not long before you went to bed.
- Lunch was ‘invented by those ladies who grew hungry waiting for their husbands to return after a day in parliament or hunting – they were the original ‘ladies who lunch’.
Common Myths and Misconceptions
- “Food eaten after 6pm is more fattening” - Research has shown that calories eaten in a large meal at night do not make the body store more fat compared to the same amount of calories eaten at any other time of day – food eaten at 5.59pm has exactly the same effect on your body as if eaten at 6.01pm. It’s not the time food is eaten; it’s the amount of calories eaten over the whole day that matters when it comes to weight gain or weight loss.
- “A square meal is a cooked meal” - Not necessarily. Although lean meat or fish with two vegetables and potatoes is a balanced meal, so too is a hearty bowl of vegetable and pulses soup with bread, or a sandwich (or pitta bread) filled with lean meat and salad.
- “Lunch is for wimps!” - Lunch is for productive people who want to benefit from taking 20 minutes out to relax and refuel – the rise in blood sugar following the meal aids concentration and brainpower. A dip in blood sugar (e.g. the afternoon ‘slump’), that can arise from a skipped meal, can cause tiredness, mood changes and loss of concentration – not the most ‘productive’ state to be in.
Tips and Tricks
- Plan ahead – if there is a day (or days) when you’re always late home, make sure you have the ingredients for a meal that is quick to cook - e.g. pasta with a tomato sauce can be cooked in just 10 minutes.
- If there’s nothing else to hand, a quick bowl of a low sugar (and preferably high fibre too) breakfast cereal with milk is a good nutritious ‘fast food’ – keep some at work too.
- Cook in bulk. The next time you make a casserole, shepherds pie or even a curry, cook extra portions so that you can freeze some for a later date - ensuring that you always have a nutritious meal in the house ready for those ‘I’m too tired to even think about cooking’ days.
- Establish a set meal time so that you sit down for breakfast or dinner at the same time each day – great for maintaining strong family relationships if you can do this with other members of the household.
We all like to be healthy and to be sure that we're doing the best we can for ourselves, and our families, health.