Originally published as my Holistic Outlook Column in The Times Herald Record.
Somewhere in the past decade, it became a truism that the best way to eat is to graze: to eat six small meals, or three meals and three snacks.
I understand the appeal! It is license to eat constantly, although human nature being what it is, often those “small” meals and snacks aren’t so small after all.
But that isn’t even the biggest problem with grazing. The problem is the science, or lack of it. Food is information. Every time you eat, you give your body instructions about how to operate. We want to instruct our bodies to burn fat, rev our metabolism, and build and retain lean muscle.
When there is enough sugar in the bloodstream, the body holds onto stored fat, instead of burning it for energy. Each time you eat, you raise blood sugar. Eat every 2-3 hours and your body never has to burn fat!
Think you’re fooling your body with 100-calorie snack packs? Those are some of the worst offenders. Calories are not the point; the quality of the food is much more important (see my March 27 column on calories).
So how, then, should we eat?
Have three balanced meals every day, each consisting of protein, carbs and fat, always together.
Good lean protein sources are chicken, turkey, fish, eggs or beef. If possible, get your protein from healthy animals, not factory farmed. Portions can range from 3 ounces for a smaller person to 6-8 ounces for a larger man with substantial muscle; few people need more.
Carbs are either starchy or nonstarchy. Limit starchy carbs to small portions, ideally from real rather than processed food, such as sweet potatoes, cooked carrots or peas, beans or legumes, or lower glycemic index fruits. These foods are also high in fiber. Nonstarchy carbs are greens and most other veggies; load your plate with these!
Healthy fat sources include avocado, coconut, nuts and seeds. Research consistently shows that people who include healthy fat eat less overall, lose more weight, and keep it off.
When you’ve got the balance right you won’t be hungry for 4-6 hours, you will burn fat, and you’ll be on your way to a healthy fat-burning metabolism, for life.