When is the Best Time of Day to Eat?

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Amelia Phillips

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Do you have ‘Portion Distortion’?

Many people eat more than half of their daily calories after 4pm. I liken it to the movie ‘Gremlins.’ During the day, you’re hunger is like a cute little Mogwai, easy to tame and keep under control. But once the sun starts to set, boom – out comes your inner Gremlin and Whoosh, you’ve inhaled over half your daily calories and looking for more.

The hormone Ghrelin, is your inner Gremlin

Our hunger hormone has the name Ghrelin (Coincidence – I think not!). It’s what stimulates your appetite, giving you the rumbly tummy before a meal, and it tends to be very time based. It’s almost like an internal clock that says ‘Well you ate at this time yesterday, so it must be time to eat again!’ It’s also a greedy little bugger, and the more you feed it the more it wants. In fact if you feed it high fat, calorie dense meals, it actually craves more.

If you skip breakfast – be warned!

How to break the cycle

To get started, focus on your three main meals and eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. You can only have two snacks during the day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. And try to avoid staying up too late, as when the midnight munchies come around, we can’t resist as our willpower is at its weakest when we’re tired.

Here’s a good dietary schedule to stick to:

  • Breakfast – 8am
  • Snack – 11am
  • Lunch – 1:30pm
  • Snack (high protein) – 4:30pm
  • Dinner – before 8pm

Use a food diary to keep track of what you eat and make sure you keep high salt and high fat foods to a minimum to help ward off cravings. Get your portions right with salads, soups and healthy snacks.

 

Soups

Soups are a great option for portion controlled lunches and dinners. One big cooking effort creates multiple servings, making it cost effective and perfect for when you’re busy. Soups are nutritious and delicious and it has actually been proven that they keep you fuller for longer. Most soups are low in calories so having a piece of bread is fine if you’re maintaining your current weight. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, bread is not recommended.

Stick to broth varieties like minestrone soup and lentil soup, and if you’re having pumpkin soup, make sure it hasn’t been loaded with cream.

TIP: Keep satchels of miso soup on hand for a quick and easy snack.

Salads

When putting a salad together, stick to two heavy ingredients. A heavy ingredient is meat, cheese, avocado, nuts or oil. That way, you won’t be weighing your salad down with foods that are high in calories.

Great ingredients for salads:

  • Capsicums are high in vitamin C and you can roast them in the oven.
  • Legumes to make you feel fuller and increase your protein count.
  • Chickpeas, lentils and tuna in tins so you can always have them handy.
  • Seaweed and baby spinach for their high iron count.
  • Chia Seeds are high in Omega 3 and a great antioxidant.
  • Quinoa for high iron, protein and fiber.

Don’t be afraid to combine ingredients like this delicious beetroot and chickpea salad recipe.

TIP: Mix ¼ lemon, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and some cracked pepper into small bowl and drizzle over your salad for extra zing.

Snacks

  • Carrot sticks or capsicum dipped in hummus.
  • Celery sticks filled with low fat ricotta or cottage cheese, sprinkled with Goji berries or currents.
  • 1/3 cup of low-fat yogurt with fruit and nutmeg.
  • Roasted chickpeas (Chic Nuts) or fava beans.
  • Fresh fruit and nuts.
  • Tins of tuna mixed with lemon and cracked pepper, spread on rice cakes or whole wheat crackers.
  • Protein shake using 1 scoop of protein powder, ½ cup of milk (almond, soy or rice) frozen raspberries and nutmeg or cinnamon.
  • 1/3 cup of low fat yogurt, half a banana, berries and a sprinkling of nutmeg.
  • Strawberries or any fruit dipped in Greek style unsweetened yogurt.
  • Jarra hot chocolate in water . Mmmm – filling and yummy.

TIP: When buying fresh juice, go by my motto – two root and 1 fruit! I.e. choose 2 roots (such as beetroot or carrot) and 1 fruit (fruit has more fructose).

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  • http://www.cheshirefitness.co.uk jason @ personal trainer

    Personally big on home-made soups and salads, but it’s eating times that do me occasionally.

    People don’t think that they are important but trust mr, they are – by about 3/4lb a week!

  • http://evilcyber.com Evilcyber

    While I generally agree with you, let me ask you this question: What do you think happens if a person with a TDEE of 2,400 kcal for seven days eats 1,000 kcal per day after 8 pm and nothing else? Will that person gain or lose weight?

    Hunger regulation nonwithstanding, I think it should be made clear that the consumption of a food after x pm doesn’t magically multiply its calories.

  • raj

    I agree with Evilcyber its all about creating a caloriecific imbalance, basically if you burn more calories then take in then you will lose weight so if you have burnt over 1000 cals/ day and you eat 1000cals after 8pm then you will still lose weight.

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  • http://www.workoutdvdworld.com.au/ Linda

    Thanks for the great snack ideas. I love my protein shakes. There are so many tasty ones on the market and when blended with frozen berries or banana they make a great snack. I find that eating little and often helps me not to feel tired after a meal. Skipping meals for me is a definite no no. Its almost like I feel all the energy draining out of my brain when I don’t eat often enough!

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    Hi! I found this blog post really helpful in dealing with my day eating habits.I appreciated all the work you have been doing. you should blog more about this. Please include some healthy snacks recipes also. Thanks for the great blog post.

  • http://thebettyrocker.com Betty Rocker

    I love the gremlin analogy! I make breakfast salad all the time because I’m a fanatic about eating lots of greens. I love adding hemp seeds – they have 16g of protein in just 3T!

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