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Do You Eat Your Meals at the Right Times?

Do you eat at right times each day? Eating food late night is harmful.

Are your Meals times right? A study found that eating a late meal increases your chances of becoming obese. Your schedule is jam-packed with school drop-offs, work meetings, after-school activities, and everything in between, making it difficult to eat meals on a continuous basis.

Does the time of day you eat meals affect your overall health and wellness? And if so, what is the optimum time to eat dinner? How about breakfast and lunch?

“Our schedules make it challenging to eat dinner at a reasonable time,” admits registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. “And it’s left us scurrying for food and snacks on the road. In some situations, it might result in disordered eating behaviors.”

Zumpano gives us some advice on the optimal times to eat dinner and other meal throughout the day.

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When is the Optimum Time to Consume Meals?

Zumpano believes it’s a personal choice based on any medical concerns you may have, as well as your health and wellbeing goals.

According to a 2016 study, our eating habits are inconsistent and unpredictable. While you may choose to eat dinner at 6 p.m., others may eat a late supper or snack before bedtime.

Even if you consume three square meals per day, a shift can disrupt your eating habits. For example, your children may have a choir concert right in the middle of dinner, or you may be behind at work and skip lunch, leading to poor eating choices later in the day.

“The more delayed our meals, the more intense our hunger becomes, often resulting in rushed and unhealthy food choices,” remarked Zumpano. “By preemptively organizing, we can ensure a nutritious dinner is prepared or at least have a plan for a convenient meal on the go. This could involve prioritizing a pause at the salad bar instead of resorting to fast food drive-thrus.”

However, if you’re searching for some direction on when to eat during the day, Zumpano makes the following recommendations:

Breakfast

Not everyone enjoys breakfast, and that’s okay. If you do eat breakfast in the morning, Zumpano recommends eating it within the first hour to an hour and a half of waking up.

And what type of breakfast should you have? We believe you know the answer (sorry, chocolate croissant). But it is worth reiterating.

“I support consuming a breakfast high in protein. I like having egg whites paired with turkey or chicken sausage. For breakfast, I find cottage cheese or Greek yogurt to be great protein sources. According to Zumpano, scrambled tofu is a superb plant-based breakfast choice.”

“Add fiber-rich foods to your meals. So, if you’re going to have eggs, add some greens, sautéed vegetables, black beans, or salsa. If you’re going to eat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, pair it with some berries and nuts.

She also emphasizes the importance of limiting or avoiding added sugars because they can induce a surge in blood sugar followed by a dip, prompting you to seek out more sugar for energy. Sugar is addictive for most individuals, so if you start your day with something sweet, you’ll be fighting your sugar appetite all day.

Lunch

Zumpano recommends spacing meals four to six hours apart. And, as with breakfast, you should aim for a meal high in fiber and protein content. Consider a salad with grilled chicken and chickpeas, or a satisfying bowl of bean and vegetable soup with turkey meatballs. A whole-grain wrap with cabbage slaw, avocado, edamame beans, and tuna is also an excellent choice.

“A lunch rich in protein and fiber can help combat the mid-afternoon energy slump around 2 or 3 o’clock,” states Zumpano. “Consuming meals overly high in carbohydrates, fats, or sugars can induce feelings of sluggishness.”

She also stresses the importance of prioritizing meal content over meal timing. In fact, she prefers having a substantial lunch over dinner.

“In certain European nations, there’s a tradition of indulging in a substantial lunch followed by a lighter dinner,” she noted. “Compared to Americans, these countries often exhibit lower rates of disease and obesity.”

As for snacking, it’s a matter of debate. When hunger strikes, reaching for potato chips or candy bars might seem tempting to tide you over until the next meal.

“Snacking may not always be necessary if your meals are adequately satisfying,” Zumpano explained. “Nonetheless, for those who’ve opted for lighter meals, missed a meal, or were unable to complete one due to time constraints,…”healthy snacks can help prevent overeating at subsequent meals. Mindless consumption driven by cravings for salty or sweet treats often results in excessive calorie intake from processed foods.”

However, she adds that if you must have a late meal, there is no need to worry.

Dinner

While it may be difficult to incorporate into your routine, eating dinner earlier in the evening — at least three hours before bedtime — has certain advantages.

“A dinner consumed earlier provides ample time for food digestion and facilitates the natural rise and fall of blood sugar levels post-dinner,” Zumpano further explains. “This prevents going to bed with a feeling of fullness or elevated blood sugar levels. In fact, individuals who regularly have early dinners often report improved sleep quality.”

However, she adds that if you must have a late meal, there is no need to worry.

“If dinner needs to be later than preferred, don’t stress over the timing,” she said. “In such cases, consider healthier eating options. If late dining becomes a habit, consider making lunch your primary meal to last until the evening. To prevent eating too many calories, go for a lighter meal. Looking for a low-calorie dinner idea? Make a leafy salad with grilled seafood, a vegetable-based bean stew with lean protein, or a stir-fry with shrimp and veggies. A useful tip? To stay light, eat more proteins and vegetables and less carbs and fats.

“If you have dinner just before bedtime, it can hinder the digestion process,” Zumpano explains. “Engaging in a brief 10- to 20-minute walk or performing light activities such as tidying the kitchen, vacuuming, or mopping, or any moderate level of movement, can aid in digestion.”

Should You Attempt Time-Restricted Eating?

You’ve probably heard about intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating. So, how does it work?

“Time-limited eating involves reducing your eating period to between eight and 12 hours, indicating you only consume food within that timeframe,” Zumpano explained. “During the remaining hours, you abstain from consuming any food or calorie-containing beverages.”

Should you attempt time-restricted eating? It depends on the individual.

“If you’re interested in time-restricted eating, begin with a 12-hour fast after supper, so if you finish dinner at 7 p.m., don’t eat or drink until 7 a.m. the next day. If that’s not a big deal, start pushing breakfast back an hour until you find the eating window that works best for your body and schedule,” says Zumpano. “Granting your body breaks from eating is crucial, yet the selection of food can wield an even more significant impact on health.”

Bottom Line?

When it comes to eating your meals throughout the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

“It really should be tailored and personalized to you,” Zumpano says. “The key point to keep in mind is the content of your meals: are you ensuring an adequate intake of protein and fiber with each meal?” However, the timing of those meals can vary depending on you and your schedule.

Also Read this: How to Reduce Cholesterol without Medication?

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