With the rise of intermittent fasting, new diets and varied office hours, it can be hard for people to stick to regular meal times.
As a result, many are finding it harder to control their weight and are experiencing unexpected weight gain or health issues.
Leading Australian dietitian, Susie Burrell, recently addressed this issue and shared what she believes to be the optimal times to eat each meal in order to burn the most energy and avoid weight gain.
BREAKFAST: 7AM – 8AM
Speaking to Body + Soul, Susie says breakfast should be eaten by 7am or 8am to ‘get our system moving each morning’ and ‘tap into your natural metabolism’.
‘One of the reasons you feel hungrier on days you have taken time to eat breakfast early is that your metabolism has been given a boost,’ she explained.
On her blog, Susie also recommends starting the day with a probiotic, finishing breakfast with a green tea and to go for a 15-20 minute meal afterwards
Protein is crucial for this meal, with Susie recommending foods like a couple of eggs with vegetables, Greek yoghurt and fruit or cottage cheese and some wholegrain cereal.
‘This will not only help to keep you full throughout the morning but it will also help to control the release of the hormone insulin,’ she said previously.
‘Insulin regulates both glucose and fat metabolism in the body and keeping it well regulated is a key step in long term weight control.’
Should you eat more at breakfast?
Research from the University of Tel Aviv found that dieters who consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunchtime and just 200 calories at dinner were significantly more likely to lose weight and waist circumference than dieters who consumed just 200 calories at breakfast and 700 at dinner.
LUNCH: 11am – 12pm and 2pm – 3pm
Lunch time, according to Susie, is one of the most important meals of the day and is just as important as breakfast.
With many people working long hours, it’s also a meal that is forgotten or shifted into the late afternoon as an after thought – something that can impact your weight control.
Susie told Body + Soul that this meal should be eaten three to four hours after breakfast, as this is when we start feeling hungry, and therefore, an early lunch is often a good idea.
As a result, to avoid ‘unnecessary snacking’, Susie recommends enjoying two small lunches at 11am or 12pm and another at 2pm or 3pm.
‘If you start the day early, forget eating your lunch at 2 or 3pm – it is too late, as we are burning more calories and generally burning more energy between the hours of 8-6pm,’ she explained
Why should we be eating regularly?
One of the easiest ways to keep on top of your energy levels and food cravings throughout the day is to prioritise regular meals and snacks.
Not only will eating every 3- 4 hours ensure optimal blood glucose regulation but it will help to avoid the energy highs and lows that can be associated with periods of both over and under eating.
The trick with eating regularly is to ensure that your balanced meals are complimented with nutrient rich snacks that offer both carbs and proteins such as a piece of fruit and nuts, a banana smoothie or some energy balls.
Source: Susie Burrell
A relatively strict day of eating is followed by extreme hunger and cravings late afternoon which inevitably leads to binge eating and sugar cravings if not well managed,’ she said previously.
‘Avoid this scenario after an early lunch by planning for a substantial filling snack between 3 and 4pm.
‘Options that have a good balance of carbs and protein include a Mountain Bread Wrap with cheese, nut spread or lean meat; wholegrain crackers with cottage or goats cheese and some cucumber or tomato or a meal replacement or protein shake with fruit and seed mix.’
DINNER: BY 8PM
A late dinner and an early breakfast is not ideal as we need ’10-12 hours without any food over night’.
Susie says dinner should be eaten by 8pm by the latest and that when it comes to dinner, the ‘earlier the better’.
To combat late dinners, Susie recommends making lunch the main meal of the day so a light dinner like soup can be eaten for dinner.
Alternatively, she suggests a snack at 3 or 4pm.
‘Enjoying a substantial snack at 3-4pm, followed by a light dinner later will help to give your body the time overnight it needs to support weight control,’ she said