I am a big advocate of meals, and not snacks. Why?
In order to turn off your hunger hormones, you need to eat a nutrient-dense meal (protein, good fats and vegetables) that will keep you feeling full and satiated for the next 5-6 hours. Little snacks spread throughout the day (such as a latte and a muffin, or carrots sticks, a handful of nuts, a low-calorie rice cake, a tablespoon of peanut butter) don’t offer the same benefits as a meal that is satiating.
The benefits of taking a 5-6 hour break between meals
1. Allows time for effective digestion
2. Allows time for effective metabolism
3. Enables you to reach and maintain healthy blood sugar levels
4. Assists with turning off off your hunger hormones and feel satiated for longer
Time for digestion is important
Digestion is everything. It is how you assimilate, absorb and digest nutrients.
The digestion process, which takes a lot of energy, usually lasts around 6 hours. Your body has to break down the food into nutrients that can be absorbed and used by the body.
If you snack between meals, you are adding more of a burden to your digestive process. Your body is unable to repair, restore or even heal as you have disrupted this process of digestion that began the last time you ate.
When your body cannot utilise and digest the food, it leads to weight gain, bloating, gas, IBS, blood sugar deregulation and even rapid ageing (hunger = younger). I am not talking about starvation, but healthy hunger.
A 2014 randomized study researchers compared the biological benefits of eating 5 to 6 small meals a day instead of 2 larger meals (with the same caloric intake) to determine the biological benefit on body weight, hepatic fat content, insulin resistance, and beta cell function.
The study concluded that fewer larger meals reduced body weight, hepatic fat content, fasting plasma glucose, C-peptide and glucagon, and increased oral glucose insulin sensitivity.
This means that not only are we better equipped to deal with the calories we eat when we have proper breaks, but our body responds positively to it.
Eat when hungry
Learn to eat only when you are hungry. This can easily be achieved by resetting your body’s brain signals – intermittent fasting can help.
There are many benefits to fasting but it isn’t magic. For it to work, you need to keep insulin low – so only eating blood-sugar balancing meals and no grazing between meals.
The aim is to stick to 2 -3 meals a day.
If you eat 2 meals a day, say at 12 noon and 6pm, then you are fasting for 16-18 hours between your dinner and your meal the next day. If during this time you are unable to avoid snacks, then this fasting method is not for you, and you are better off sticking to 3 meals a day, 5-6 hours between meals and with no snacking.
Until you manage this, I don’t recommend extended fasting as it leads to leptin deregulation and binging, and often an inability to know when you are full.
Most of the research shows that eating every 3-4 hours can actually accelerate premature ageing and halt fat burning. Take a read through this study.
If you have adrenal fatigue or high cortisol levels please be aware that excessive caffeine consumption can increase hunger. If you drink black coffee to keep your hunger at bay and drink more than 3 cups, please be conscious that it too can raise insulin which is not what you want. If you are eating emotionally this too needs to be addressed.
MY NO-SNACK HACK: Have a piece of dark chocolate or some berries and nuts after dinner or lunch. Have it straight after your meal then close the kitchen.
Nutrient-dense, satiating meals
I have a simple guide when it comes to what should be on my plate at every meal.
The majority of the plate should be greens, and more greens, a palm size portion of good quality protein, healthy fats and a portion of low impact starchy vegetables and fruit but fruit after your meal.
Although there is never a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to nutrition, I encourage my clients to follow my 7 core principles to make sure they’re creating plates of food that will nourish their bodies. Click here to find out more.
Planning your meals to get the balance of food types, combinations, quantities and nutrition right, can be nothing short of exhausting. Take a read through my blog MY GUIDE TO THE IDEAL NOURISHING PLATE to assist you with decision fatigue.