One of the biggest changes I’ve made to improve my diet is not only shifting what I eat, but also changing when I eat.
This area of science—called chrononutrition—suggests that it’s better for our overall health to eat the majority of our calories earlier in the day, rather than too close to when we go to sleep. Presumably, this is for a number of reasons, such as giving our bodies more time to digest the food and more time to burn the calories in the food.
So I really do try to subscribe to the mantra: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.
Now, that can take quite a bit of brain-bending for those who eat in westernized ways, since our culture seems to value light or no breakfast and a sumo-sized dinner.
By the way, research suggests that there’s a positive association between your health and having more family meals. That is, the more you eat as a group, the more likely it is that you make smart food choices involving healthy ingredients. So I’m not suggesting you grab an apple for dinner and scoot out of the house. You can still sit at dinner, even if the portions are smaller.
Here’s my challenge: Take one week and see if you can shift all your meals this way (ideally, eating healthier ingredients). A large breakfast, a medium-sized lunch, and a small dinner (like a salad with a little lean protein on it).
Take notes about how you feel, your energy, your sleep, and your overall hunger levels. See if you can find any patterns, and see if this could be one of the strategies that can help you on your path to eating better—and living longer.
My Simple Secret Weapon
Here’s one of the easiest and most practical things I have ever done to help me keep any temptation-driven eating to a minimum.
I use a coffee mug as my dish. That ensures that—even if I feel like I really need some chips—I’ll keep the portions low and not rip through an entire bag like an angry hyena stalking its prey. And you know what? It works.
I can measure out my portion size, and then I eat slowly. I savor the few bites, chomps, and chews, and that’s it.
You don’t have to be perfect to have a healthier body, but you should be thoughtful. This one habit can help keep non-nutritious snacking confined to smaller portions (now, no cheating and finding a coffee mug that’s bigger than a watermelon!).
How to Eat Out
One of the toughest things to do when you’re trying to eat healthy is to eat out. Bread baskets, fried appetizers, portions the size of skyscrapers. One meal can have the caloric amount of a day. Or two.
So the big question is: Give in and give up? Or be smart and stay satisfied?
Hey, I’m not in the business of raining on anybody’s parmesan parade, so by all means, you should enjoy all the delights that you like on special occasions. I’ve also learned to enjoy eating out and making good choices. I order fish instead of red meat. I eat salad instead of the creamy bisque. And maybe I take a bite or two of a dessert, rather than forklift the whole plate in my mouth.
Years ago, when you ate healthy in restaurants, it meant you ate blandly. Now, though, I find the healthier choices can be just as savory and spicy and succulent as any other dish.
The best part? If I make mostly good decisions when I order, that means I feel okay to indulge in one sorta-sinful thing. #mashedpotatoes