We’re halfway through our leading-into-summer 6-week Healthy Diet Bootcamp. In the first three installments, we showed you how to set specific diet goals, we explained the crucial role of healthy snacking, and we defined what constitutes a healthy meal plan for fitness and weight loss. This week, we’re going to look at meal timing and food combinations. How often you eat; when you eat; how you combine your foods — all of these play a role in shaping your appetite, not to mention your cravings, and in turn influence your ability to stay on track with healthy eating goals.
Healthy Diet Bootcamp, Week 4: Meal Timing & Food Combinations
Last week, I gave you a sample meal day to use as a guide for your Healthy Diet Bootcamp. As the food and servings over the course of that day demonstrated, healthy eating for weight loss does not have to be extreme (or, look like the picture at the top of this post!) — in fact, healthy eating for weight loss is most effective if you eat normal foods that are tasty, simple to prepare and easy to find at your grocery store. It does
So, let’s discuss meal timing. And here’s some advice that will likely surprise you: Eat 5-6 small meals, spread throughout the day. Why? You may have heard that doing this will boost your metabolic rate; well, unless you’re fasting, metabolic rate generally increases in proportion to calories ingested, so it will be about the same whether you take in your calories with 3 meals or 6. The real reason that it’s important to spread meals throughout the day is that it helps manage both your appetite and your energy.
Think about it: How do you feel after eating a big meal? Like you need a nap, right? Worse, if you eat 3 meals a day, and between-meal breaks of 4-6 hours, chances are that when you sit down for that next meal, you will eat larger portions, faster, because you are “starving.” To put this into perspective, think about when you are really thirsty. Do you take just one sip of water and tell yourself that you’ll drink more in another couple of hours? Of course not! You chug without thought, until you feel satisfied — in fact, until you feel more than satisfied.
But you say that you don’t know how to break down your meals into smaller, more frequent groups? Check last week’s post, “Making a Meal Plan for Fitness and Weight Loss” — the sample meal day is comprised of 3 meals and 2 snacks. (And no, none of them are as small as the image at the top of this post!)
Now we’ll discuss food combinations. The basic idea here is that you should use meals and snacks to boost your intake of protein and fibre.
Have you ever eaten something and then felt hungry again 5 minutes later? It’s because our bodies digest certain foods quickly — particularly low-fibre or highly refined foods — and that’s what leaves us feeling hungry again soon after. Both protein and fibre slow digestion; your body has to work harder to convert them into the form it needs. Basically, by adding protein and fibre to a meal or snack, you will end up feeling fuller, longer.
Next week: How to kick cravings to the curb
Ps. Follow me on twitter @MariaNutrition for tips to help you stay on track, and post Comments or questions below!
*Editor’s Note: This is the healthy eating portion of Slice.ca’s Get in Shape for Summer Bootcamp. Our fitness expert, Katya Mohsen, is providing tailored exercise routines for her part of Slice’s Bootcamp, also weekly!
Maria Thomas is a registered dietitian and owner of UrbanNutrition.com.