Hello! There's a lot going on in the world that's challenging, and I hope we're all up for the challenge of making the world a better place. This is an excellent reason to stay healthy. We all have to eat, and what we choose to eat affects our own health and the health of the planet. To this end, I have created a downloadable Healthy Eating Tip Sheet (see below). In this blog post and in the upcoming blogs, I'll unpack the tips from this tip sheet.
In this blog, I discuss meal timing, meal spacing and why lunch should be your main meal of the day.
TIP: Eat 2 -3 times a day at roughly the same time during daylight hours.
Even as we humans have the capacity to eat whatever we want whenever we want, like eating ice cream at midnight, snacking on nuts while working at the computer, skipping lunch entirely, and binging on chips in the late afternoon, eating two or three meals a day at roughly the same time every day is better for your body.
Anahad O'Conner of the New York Times writes that "a growing body of research suggests that our bodies function optimally when we align our eating patterns with our circadian rhythms, the innate 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to wake up, when to eat and when to fall asleep. Studies show that chronically disrupting this rhythm — by eating late meals or nibbling on midnight snacks, for example — could be a recipe for weight gain and metabolic trouble." Dr. Satchin Panda, a researcher on Circadian science and author of the Circadian Code argues that our bodies function best when we eat our meals daily during an 8 - 10 hour window, eating our breakfast in the morning and finishing dinner by the early evening. (Read this article here.)
TIP: Make lunch the main meal of the day. This is when your digestive capacity is at its peak
Ayurveda, the healing tradition of India and sister science of yoga, and modern science are in agreement with regards to meal timing, meal spacing and what to eat when. Ayurveda has always emphasized that meal spacing and making lunch the largest meal of the day are keys to health and longevity. Ayurveda argues that when the sun is at its highest ,at the noon hour, is when the body is most primed to take in the largest meal. Scientific evidence support this. Eating the bulk of your food in the first half of the day is better for our health because we are biologically best equipped to digest food more efficiently and burn more calories in the earlier part of the day.
Ayurveda and growing scientific evidence suggests that you should eat a nourishing breakfast, a bigger lunch and an earlier, lighter dinner. Allow at least three hours between finishing dinner and going to bed. Allow at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Evidence suggests that 14 hour or more of fasting reduces inflammation and may help promote better weight. If you finish dinner by 7 PM, your body will have ample digestion time. If you are going to skip any meal, let it be dinner rather than lunch or breakfast.
Making the shift to a bigger better lunch.
A few generations back, the midday meal that we call lunch was called dinner. Folks stopped working and gathered at midday or early afternoon to eat their largest meal together. It was a time to be nourished and to relax. After this, folks would return to their work or chores. Later in the day, they would gather again for a smaller meal called supper. Supper: think something "supplemental." A lighter meal, not a large, heavy meal. This healthy pattern of eating is still practiced in many parts of the world.
This all sounds reasonable, but so many of us are away from home at lunch that it's hard to make lunch a priority. What can we do? Shifting our eating pattern to making lunch a larger meal requires planning, meal planning. If you work away from the home and gather with your family for dinner in the evening, plan to make enough dinner so that you'll have leftovers for lunch for the next day. Before serving your dinner, put away healthy portions for lunch for the next day in lunch containers. Then, serve yourself a smaller portion for dinner. Better yet, save the dense, heavy food for lunch and eat something lighter and more digestible like soup for dinner.
When it's lunch time at work, make it an occasion. Get away from your desk. Gather with your colleagues, your friends, or even take time by yourself, and take a real pause to eat and relax before getting back to work.
More strategies for healthier meals for busy people
Invest in good lunch containers. Use glass containers that you can reheat easily. Get yourself a food thermos. If you like to go out to eat, go out for lunch instead of dinner. Use a pressure cooker (like an Instant pot) or a crock pot to make save time and make healthy food at home. Hearty stews and soups make excellent lunches and can make great dinners when enjoyed in smaller portions.
Here are a few of my favorite stews for winter time lunches:
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach, educator and yoga instructor.