Three square meals a day. Really?

“Three square meals a day” – like learning to read and write, it’s a daily cycle you’ve grown up with, quoted by parents everywhere almost as often as “you’re not getting down from the table until you’ve cleared your plate”.  And yet, just as our listening habits have evolved from records and cassette tapes to streaming from Spotify, perhaps it’s time for a 21st century makeover for our eating habits too.

Have a good look at your lifestyle. If it’s like many of us, we’re living a more sedentary life – office based work, where we don’t need to move around as much, but must be able to focus and concentrate to make sure we keep working productively right through the day. Our rule of thumb should always be to match what we’re eating to what we’re doing.

So, have a go at eating more frequent, smaller meals and snacks throughout the day. And have a look at what you’re eating too. We need more nutritious food to feed the brain, and more liquid to keep us hydrated, but don’t need to load in carbs as we’re not moving around as much. How to fit this into an already hectic life? Well, here’s how I approach it:

  • Make sure the fruit basket is always full at work, with a good variety of high GI fruits like bananas, oranges, grapes, plums, apples so you don’t get bored – good grazing material when you need a snack
  • Avoid the vending machine – we’ve become very emotional eaters, after a temporary high as we reach for that addictive chocolate, which is always disappointingly short lived
  • If you don’t fancy a salad at lunchtime, cook a bit extra the night before, so there’s cooked fish or cold meat and leftover veg for lunch to keep you going
  • Have some meat snacks, such as beef jerky or home cooked chicken with your favourite spices- handy!
  • Try to give refined and processed carbs a miss (pasta, sandwiches or jacket potatoes)
  • Have a water bottle on your desk, regularly topped up, with some fruit in it if you like, or herbal teas
  • Have your main meal early in the evening (remember not to over eat), and perhaps you’ll want a supper snack later on, such as a boiled egg, dried fruit and nuts or a piece of dark chocolate as a treat

Remember, it needs to be nutritious food you’re putting into your body, otherwise you’ll quickly feel hungry again, unable to satisfy that hunger and won’t be functioning effectively at work.

But it’s not one rule fits all –see what works for your lifestyle. If you’re working out at the gym before or after work, cycling to work or playing a midweek game of footie with your colleagues you’re going to need an energy boost. Here, preparation is key. Once you’ve finish training, make sure you eat in the next 30 minutes, ideally a natural carb-laden snack such as smoothies, high GI fruits, raw vegetables or even pre-cooked meat or eggs to suit your type of training.

I’ve seen a huge change in both my mental and physical outlook since I’ve changed my diet to eat smaller amounts, but more often. As well as helping manage my weight, I don’t feel hungry, I’m more alert and focused at work, I’ve got more energy and am more inclined to move about.

But I think those around me see the most benefits – I’m more positive, and generally in a much better mood as I’m coming home from work without that “can’t be bothered”, lethargic feeling. Much better all round for being fully present when I’m with my family and friends.

Sounds good to me.

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