Isn’t it strange, the whole breakfast, lunch, and dinner thing? At what point did we decide that three square meals per day was the way to go? I’d venture to guess that it developed closely with the Monday through Friday 9-to-5 work week. Housewife prepared a nice breakfast for everyone, then packed a lunch, and finally, home for supper. But this is 2011. Not too many stay-at-home parents in this day and age. So those three meals aren’t complete – no time to prepare ‘em. In 2011, three meals a day might look something like this: coffee on the way to work, toasted bagel or donuts at the office, pizza or burger and fries at lunch, take-out for dinner, ice cream and TV for dessert. Ouch.
Allow me to present a different approach: “Grazing.” Humans have been around for tens of thousands of years. Genetically, we haven’t changed much. Strangely, we decided to change our eating habits entirely in the 20th century. Humans graze. In the wild, we’d find some ripe looking berries. We’d eat those for a while. No more on the bush? Then move on. Hungry? Time to hunt. I’m not advocating a complete hunter-gatherer approach to your diet. I am however, suggesting that you try eating several small to medium size meals per day.
Have breakfast when you wake up. A quick bowl of muesli. Then eat a small meal or large snack every two to three hours. This requires a little prep work the day before. Some good snack ideas: handful of nuts and a piece of fruit; half a sandwich; banana and peanut butter; boiled eggs and toast; leftovers in Tupperware; a big salad with shredded cheese; a whole grain muesli muffin with milk; slices of turkey or roast beef rolled with cheese; a cup of soup; a protein shake; some berries and string cheese.
When you graze, you avoid two very dangerous feelings. The first is feeling “famished” or “starving.” The second is feeling “stuffed” or “extremely full.” These two feelings are usually separated by 8-12 minutes of binging on whatever sounds good at that moment. After a grazing meal, you want to feel satisfied. Before a grazing meal, you want to feel “I could eat.” There is no desperation or regret in those statements. When you feel desperately hungry, you gorge.
Muesli is my go-to grazing meal. The biggest obstacle to grazing for me is the pre-meditated food prep. It’s time consuming to figure out the six or seven times a day. You’ll be hungry tomorrow, and then prepare all that food. That’s why muesli is a gem. Every night before bed, I’ll take all of 20 seconds and pour a bowl of muesli and milk, and leave it in the fridge to soak. Come morning, I’ve got breakfast taken care of. Didn’t even boil water. And it’s damn tasty. Every day around 9:15am at the office, I’ll pour another bowl and throw it in the fridge. When I feel hungry somewhere between 2 and 4pm, I’ve got another grazing meal taken care of.
Meal timing is key to feeling healthier and more energized throughout the day. That steady flow of energy will help you manage your day much better. Give it a try for two or three days and see how you feel.