3 Meals a Day Isn’t Enough
As hard as it can be to hear, we have to accept certain truths about good health.
Some are common knowledge, such as the notion that a broccoli is better for us than a deep fried stick of butter.
Others are less obvious, including the idea that eating many small meals each day is better than 3 large meals.
Eating three meals a day is a fundamental practice we were raised to replicate. It feels right to us, but not to our digestive system.
Attacking the ‘three meal’ model is a controversial thought, and it hits hard at the companies who work and spend hard to ensure that we’re spending money on their meal-specific products.
However, I prescribe to the belief that we’re far better off pacing our eating out throughout the day.
The ‘three meal’ system
The way we traditionally eat puts a lot of pressure on our digestive system to perform.
We starve ourselves for hours, then ingest an enormous amount high intensive food all at once.
Dinner is a meal that typically involves large portions of breads, pastas or rice. We stuff ourselves until our belly is bursting, then go to sleep within a few hours.
We subject our body to the pressure of digestion when it should be using that downtime to regenerate and repair.
Forcing an engine into overdrive several times a day is the fastest way to break it, whereas running it at a manageable speed all day will keep it working smoothly.
The ‘All day is a meal’ system
This system involves eating small meals dozens of times throughout the day. This system takes more planning than the three meal system, so it’s difficult to adjust to right away.
You should ensure that you’re still getting all your vitamins, proteins and nutrients if you take on this system. If you’re a meat eater, you can still eat meat. The goal isn’t to go without, it’s to portion out the right amount of food into smaller and more frequent demi-meals.
For example, rather than eating an entire steak in one sitting, cut it into pieces and enjoy it at regular intervals throughout the day.
According to a study conducted by the Agricultural University of Athens, portioning out smaller meals led to the better management of hunger and blood sugar levels for a test group of 47 clinically obese and type 2 diabetic people.
According to the published report, the subjects were split into two groups. One group ate three meals a day for three months, then 6 meals a day for three more months. Another group performed this experiment in reverse (6 meals a day for three months, followed by 3 meals a day for three months).
The results obtained from the test clearly showed dramatically improved blood sugar levels during the months spent eating 6 meals per day.
The nutritional content of the meals didn’t vary, only the frequency at which they were consumed. This proved to make a world of difference to the health of the subjects.
What can I do?
If you’re really serious about changing your health, the best person to talk to is your doctor. He or she can test your blood and find out where your current diet has been letting you down.
Whenever you make changes to how you eat, it’s important that you make them after having conducted research and sought out advice if necessary.
The best way to stay on track is plan your day and prepare in advance. I like to keep lots of small containers handy and pack them the night before.
I work in many places around the city, so I take a backpack wherever I go. I’ll fill up my containers with various food items I know I’ll want at different times. In the morning I’ll eat dried fruits, unsalted nuts and yummy sugar-free protein balls. (These all fit in a little container in my bag).
Throughout the day my cravings will change, so I make sure to anticipate these changes. All day I’ll want nuts and dried fruits, so I keep lots of those. I’m a big fan of dried mango and goji berries. Almonds are a great go to nut, they’re packed with healthy fats and aren’t as expensive as other higher end nuts.
One of my containers is freezable, so it keeps cold throughout the day. In this I’ll keep strips of skinless chicken breast and vegetables such as peas and broccoli. I also keep yoghurt and oat milk in there.
One handy tip for eating vegetables if you don’t like them (like I don’t) is to keep a bottle of something that will jazz up the taste. I’ve found that sesame seed dressing is amazing on cold vegetables and makes them a lot easier to eat.
The key is quantity. If I feel too hungry, I’ll lose control and order something enormous from Taco Bell at lunchtime. I’ve got to make sure that all my snacky little containers combine well and make up enough calories to carry me through the day.
I also want to make sure I don’t run out because if I do, I may have to compromise on quality. Most stores sell nuts that have been cooked and covered in sugar, so I’ve got to make sure I always pack enough of the healthy kind.
It’s a lot of work at first, and can take a lot of time to get use to. However once you’ve become accustomed to the ‘all day is a meal’ system, you’ll never look back.