There’s a misconception swirling around that multiple small meals a day is ideal for health. Or that 3 meals with 2 – 3 snacks is the best way to avoid hunger and control your calorie intake. When I first had a patient mention this to me in the office I almost fell off my chair as I asked “where did you get this from”. She explained this came from her dietician and I knew we were in for problems if my patient followed that advice. Since that time I have heard this notion repeated on multiple occasions and I always want to break out and do a physiology lesson so folks could realize that this is not how our bodies were designed to function. The physiology of digestion is such that food begins to break down as soon as we place it in our mouth. It then makes its way to the stomach where it takes between 4 – 6 hours for the meal to be well digested. After this the food passes to the other parts of the system for further processing. Notice it takes at least 4 hours for food to leave the stomach and it is important that we give this delicate organ the time it needs to get the job done. When you add food in the middle of a digestion cycle the stomach becomes overworked and fatigued. That’s when we get symptoms of indigestion, bloating and that sour stomach feeling. Our bodies were designed to have 2 to 3 meals a day with nothing in between except water. Many folks eat 5 to six times a day and some folks graze continually, always munching on something or drinking a sugary beverage. This habit of snacking is really hazardous to our health in more ways than one. Eating in between meals leads to weight gain, indigestion, heartburn, mental fatigue and gas.
But won’t you get hungry if you only eat three times a day or worse yet, two times? It all depends on what you eat. The key is to start the day off with a big breakfast filled with complex carbohydrates. That is unprocessed foods and grains. Not a breakfast of coffee and donuts or bagels and cream. That kind of breakfast has very little fiber and so the blood sugar level rises fast and falls fast leaving you hungry and dragging. A breakfast with whole grains like steel cut oats, barley, millet, hearty waffles, a nut butter and fruit is very high in fiber. This type of breakfast will have a slow release of glucose and up to 4 hours later you will still have energy to move and work. A lunch filled with complex carbohydrates and high fiber will be a great choice for lunch. Baked sweet yams with beans, cooked greens and a salad is an ideal lunch. If you must eat something in between meals because of hunger then reach for a piece of fruit or raw vegetable.
This kind of eating pattern will put you well on the road to a happy tummy and a smaller waist line.