“I had a missed call. It’s probably the all you can eat buffet calling to say, “Come back! We know you can eat just a little bit more.”
Far be it from me to add to the thousands of books written on diet and nutrition. Most of us know that we should eat fewer artery-clogging trans fats, sugar, and processed foods and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. When it comes to eating, my message is simple:
- STOP eating too much by reducing portion size.
- STOP eating three big meals a day. Instead, eat several small meals or snacks throughout the day to regulate energy.
- STOP eating foods that drain energy, like sugar and empty carbs. Eat a combination of healthy foods that give you energy and foods you really enjoy.
Many of us grew up with parents who taught us to “clean your plate.” My grandparents, the late Leonard and Virginia Key, survived the Great Depression of the early 1930s and were keen to not waste anything of value, especially scarce food. My grandparents embraced Benjamin Franklin’s admonition: “Waste not, want not.”
When that thought has been drilled into your head, pushing back from the table before your plate is empty may produce a twinge of guilt. Compounding the problem is that dinner plates in homes and restaurants have almost doubled in size along with portions. No wonder belonging to the “clean plate club” now means that you’re probably overeating.
Do you often feel drowsy after a large meal and feel your energy sag? Do you seek comfort in food or eat more than you should because you are enjoying the taste? When you eat too much, you exact a toll on your body. Overeating stresses your system because it requires redirecting extra energy to the process of digestion. An overloaded system simply stores those extra calories as fat when the excess can’t be eliminated properly.
I like Harvard Medical School’s recommendations on healthy eating, particularly as they relate to energy. According to Harvard, a balanced diet includes a variety of unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and beneficial fats, with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils. Taking a daily multivitamin helps you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but taking extra amounts of individual nutrients won’t give you more energy.
Eat certain types of foods in the right amounts to prevent fatigue. Different kinds of foods are converted to energy at different rates. Candy gives you a quick lift, but then the sugar rush causes your energy levels to crash. Whole grains and complex carbohydrates balanced with protein like raw nuts provide energy reserves throughout the day. Occasional treats are okay if you must indulge, but limit refined sugar as much as possible. Sugar’s quick boost fades fast and leaves you craving another dose.
Eat for energy. STOP consuming three large meals a day. For better energy and brain function, you need to eat small meals and snacks every few hours. This approach reduces your perception of fatigue because your brain, which has few energy reserves of its own, needs a steady supply of nutrients. Some people begin feeling sluggish after just a few hours without food. But it doesn’t take much to feed your brain. A small piece of fruit like an apple with a tablespoon of almond butter or a handful of nuts suffices.
The circadian rhythms of people who eat a lot at lunch typically show a more pronounced afternoon slump, research shows. This slump likely reflects the increase in blood sugar after eating, which is followed by a dip in energy.[i] Therefore, STOP eating too much and eat for energy.
I welcome your feedback.
Joy to you!
[i] “Eating to boost energy,” Harvard Health Publications from Harvard Medical School, July 26, 2011, http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/eating-to-boost-energy.