“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”
Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story
It is easy to fall into the pattern of having coffee for breakfast, skipping lunch, siphoning down more cups of coffee and snacking on unhealthy snacks throughout the day. Problem is, you are so famished by the time you get home that you end up over indulging for dinner and spending the rest of the evening as an award-winning couch potato or nibbling non-stop till bed time. Normal eating schedules seem to have become harder and harder to maintain. With your 24/7 lifestyle, you may have unwittingly allowed night eating to become an accepted part of how you live.
Consuming larger, heavier meals at night can set you up for some serious health concerns.
Eating too much late in the day has many negative consequences such as excess body fat storage which may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of other lifestyle diseases. There are also more immediate consequences that overeating causes to your energy levels and mood. Overeating pushes up your blood sugar and fat storage hormones such as insulin so you end up storing fat easier. A definite no-go if you’re concerned about an expanding waistline! Eating larger meals at night may also increase your chance of experiencing indigestion and may also negatively impact on the quality of your sleep so you don’t wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Eating lighter, more regular meals or snacks is the solution to increasing your energy levels and your capacity to get things done more effectively. Instead of missing meals, why not think about having a more substantial meal at midday, instead of late in the evening?
Why is this a good idea? Eating a more balanced midday meal may help you avoid cravings and over eating later in the day. It will help you to concentrate better too. It will enhance your health may even help you to lose those extra kilos.
Clearly, the idea is not to have such a large lunch that you need to ask permission for a siesta! The perfect lunch is one that leaves you feeling satisfied and energetic enough to have a productive afternoon.
Eating a balanced lunch while you are eating on the run may be easier than you think. Use this practical suggestion to help you eat balanced meals whether you are in a restaurant, on the run or working at the office. Always consider the balanced meal on a plate and keep to these proportions, no matter where you are eating.
Putting together a balanced meal:
Step 1. Half fill your plate (two fistfuls) with lots of colour in the form of salad or vegetables.
Step 2. Add one fistful of starch. Ideally one that is low GI or high in fibre such as fresh fruit, seed loaf bread, barley, legumes, rice, sweet potatoes, etc.
Step 3. Add one portion or the size of the palm of your hand of low fat or lean protein such as yoghurt, cheese, fish, seafood, chicken, egg, lean red meat etc.
Step 4. A small portion of a healthy fat such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, peanut butter, etc. Alternatively, a small amount of good quality oil could be used in the meal preparation or as a dressing.
Guidelines for assembling balanced healthy lunch ideas
• If you have access to a fridge, start each week, by taking a container with assembled lunch basics to work. Include salad vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, small cucumbers, sweet peppers, and other crudités. Add cottage cheese, cheese wedges, boiled eggs, tuna in brine, small tins of baked beans, high fibre crackers, yoghurts, etc. Assembling your own lunch from your supply of basics will be faster than fighting the canteen queues or walking across the road to a local takeout.
• Home-made vegetable soups are a smart way to add generous amounts of vegetables to a meal. Make vegetable soups in bulk and freeze in smaller batches for easy grab ‘n go.
• Roasting vegetables in larger quantities and keeping them chilled for a few days makes for quick reheating and adding to meals, or for instant use in salads.
• Cooked starches such as rice, pasta, stampkoring, barley, mealies etc. can be cooked in larger amounts and stored in the fridge for up to a week and frozen for up to a month.
• Chicken fillets and eggs can also be prepared in larger quantities and stored for up to a week in the fridge.
• Meal-leftovers can be stored in re-heatable containers for quick and easy balanced meals on the run.
• Have available a variety of Tupperware, zip-lock plastic bags, small cooler boxes, ice bricks, water bottles, mini sauce containers with tight fitting lids, wet wipes, etc.
By eating a balanced lunch with the objective to eat lighter in the evening, you will reap the rewards of better energy, engagement and health!