We’re all guilty of leaving lunch until late when we’re having a busy day or even skipping it when things are ultra hectic.
But new research has proven that by putting off lunch, we’re wreaking havoc on our blood sugar levels and will have trouble losing or maintaining weight and keeping our energy levels up.
Nutritionist Marilyn Glenville, author of Fat Around the Middle, is an advocate of the little and often approach to eating, and warns that leaving hours between meals will affect your energy levels and make you more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks.
We asked her how to time our food for the best health, energy levels and weight management.
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How often should we be eating?
“To keep weight down and energy steady is eating little and often,” Marilyn explains.
“Women in particular can be very sensitive to long periods without food so I recommend eating every three hours. That stops you going into hypoglycemia – when your blood sugar level goes too low.”
“On a normal day, you’ll have had breakfast by say eight. So have your mid-morning snack at 11, lunch at one, another snack at four and then dinner at seven. And if you stick to that it will work.”
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“Everyone is different so pay attention to how you feel, whether you feel sluggish or your energy levels dipping and you may have to adjust. If you need to eat even more regularly, try splitting meals. If you normally have two pieces of toast for breakfast, have one and then save the other for an hour later. That way you’re eating the same amount but spreading it out so you don’t feel hungry.”
“Be better not to eat anything after dinner – instead have a herbal tea, something like chamomile. If you must, have something like yoghurt with berries or something that’s quite light.”
Foods to eat and to avoid?
“For snacks, a piece of fruit or nuts, raisins, live organic yoghurt, raw veg with a dip like hummous are all ideal. If you’re going to have coffee or chocolate make sure you have it in the morning as it has caffeine in and will affect your sleep.
“In the afternoon try to eat fruit with some nuts, because by adding protein to the carbs you lower their glycemic index and will feel fuller for longer.
“If you’re watching your weight and sugar intake, remember berries are less sugary than tropical fruits such as bananas. And fruit juices not a good idea as the fructose goes straight to the blood stream quickly because they have no fibre."
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“For lunch, it’s better not to have a lot of carbs as they can make you feel sleepy in the afternoon. Instead of a jacket potato with cheese and beans, go for half of a jacket with tuna. You’ll find even though it’s less food, it’ll give you more energy.
“And opt for wholegrain goods as the fibre slows down the rate of absorption and will make you feel fuller for longer.
Where to eat
“One last point to stress is that where you eat your lunch makes a huge difference," Marilyn adds.
"If you sit at your computer you are really eating mindlessly, not registering the food properly and so you end up eating more because you don’t feel like you’re eating much.
“One big piece of advice is just to take 10 minutes and move away from your desk, don’t eat on the move and take the time to notice that you are eating. It makes a huge difference.”