The Second Most Important Meal of the Day

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

You may be surprised to hear that the second most important meal of the day is a midmorning snack. The reason for this is simple: you want to balance the amount of calories you take in before lunch, with the calories you take in after lunch. By spreading your calories out evenly across the day you will greatly reduce your hunger later in the day and be more apt to make healthier choices and reduce your urges to over eat in the evening.

Let me repeat this: By choosing a healthy midmorning snack you will greatly reduce the chance that you will eat off your plan later in the day. Here’s why.

Binge control. If eating a healthy snack in the AM prevents you from dipping into the candy bowl or vending machine at work in the afternoon you will actually consume fewer total calories for the day.

Metabolism Boost: By eating small frequent meals your metabolism will begin to speed up, burning more total calories for the day. Consider your metabolism as a campfire. If you let it go too long without stoking the fire it will burn down to coals. If you add a large log (meal) to the fire it will smolder for a while and then finally begin to burn. Instead, consider stoking the fire (your metabolism) with small frequent amounts of fuel. This will keep the embers burning bright and you energized throughout your entire day.

Blood Sugar Control: Small frequent meals, with a focus on healthy whole foods and a lean protein source, will prevent large swings in your blood sugar. We have all had the experience of low blood sugar at some point. We waited too long to eat because we were distracted and busy and had to deal with light headedness, brain fog, fatigue and strong hunger urges.  By the time we did remember to eat, we were so hungry that, the chances of us making a healthy decision were next to nil. By eating small frequent meals you will prevent the large spikes and dips in your blood sugar and the resulting spikes and dips in your energy levels.

Healthy Snacks

For your busy lifestyle, choosing snacks and meals that are quick and nutritious is essential. The list below offers several quick and nutritious snacks you can try. Over time, you will become comfortable in making nutritious choices and probably will want to add your own quick and healthy options to the list.

A balanced meal or snack consists of two parts carbohydrates and one part protein. For example, a balanced breakfast might consist of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese (the protein) and your favorite fresh fruit (a carbohydrate). You might also combine protein sources like eggs, chicken, or turkey sausages with carbohydrates like fresh fruit and a small amount of potatoes or toast.

At meals you want to avoid eating a large amount of carbohydrates without protein and this goes for snacking too.

Earlier I spoke about blood sugar control. Small frequent meals are key to managing moderate blood sugar levels across the day. Equally as important are the foods that make up your meal or snack. Eating just carbohydrates will produce a spike in your blood sugar.  An hour or two later, your blood sugar level will drop. As a result, you will likely feel sluggish or irritable and may have difficulty thinking clearly. Eating a balanced meal, with a small amount of protein or healthy fat, will help you avoid the sugar rush and prevent the peaks and valleys of blood sugar swings.

I recommend that you eat a piece of fruit at each snack time and pair it with a yogurt, nuts (15 raw almonds), 1 oz of cheese (low fat string cheese) or 3 tsp of nut butter. In addition to peanut butter, almond butter tastes great on fruit. You will need to plan for these snacks so sit down for a moment and choose which snacks you will eat this week. Then write up a grocery list and have them ready to go Sunday evening so you can take them to work on Monday. If you choose nuts and have a hard time eating just one serving, then purchase small snack bags (like Ziploc brand) and pre-bag 12 almonds in each bag. One bag is a serving, but if you eat two bags you will know exactly how much to write down in your journal. You should have at least two snacks a day; one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon.

Why do I list, ‘12 almonds, 9 pecans, 3 walnuts, 1 macadamia’ as a serving size? Each of these quantities has the same amount of fat. Yes, 1 macadamia nut has the same amount of fat as 12 almonds! Nuts are extremely healthy. Just be sure to divide them into single serving baggies so it is less likely that you will over indulge.

Keep it simple; this shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to plan. If you plan to have an apple with yogurt for your mid-morning snack and a pear with almonds for your mid-afternoon snack, your grocery list will look like this:

A grocery list example:

7 apples

7 pears

1 bag raw organic almonds

7 yogurts

To create your own healthy snacks, choose one item from each column:

Carbohydrate ListProtein List
1 piece fruit1 svg nuts: 9 almonds, 7 pecans, 3 walnuts, 1 macadamia
5-6 whole wheat crackers1 cup yogurt (Cascade Fresh nonfat w/ fruit)
1 whole wheat piece of bread/ toast2 Tsp nut butter (peanut or almond)
½ whole wheat pita2 T hummus
¼ C Go Lean Cereal8 oz (1 cup) milk or soy milk, nonfat or light
¼ C high fiber cereal2-3 oz meat or tuna
1 whole wheat tortilla1 oz cheese (harder cheese has less fat than soft)
1/4 cup brown rice, whole wheat pasta or quinoa1 egg

Other Smart Snack ideas:

  1. 4 pcs of dried apricot and Low-fat organic cottage cheese with sliced pear, plum, cherries, or ¼ cup fresh berries.
  2. Hummus with raw chopped vegetables or whole grain pita bread.
  3. Whole-grain toast with nut butter (cashew and almond butter are delicious alternatives to peanut butter).
  4. Olive tapenade spread on toasted whole wheat pita bread, no salt corn tortilla chips, whole grain crackers, or rye crisp.
  5. Apple or pear slices with organic cheese slice or nut butter.
  6. Low-fat organic yogurt with nutty (almonds, cashews, etc) granola or ¼ cup fresh berries or a piece of fruit.
  7. Tofu chive spread or roasted garlic tofu spread (both found at the PCC deli) with crackers, whole grain bread, or pita.
  8. Nuts or seeds, 12 almonds, 9 pecans, 3 walnuts, 1 macadamia (roasting them with tamari is delicious) and a piece of fruit.
  9. 5 Whole Wheat crackers and 1 oz of cheese.

Angela Pifer, Certified Nutritionist

Seattle Based – I work Nationally through Skype

Tags: , ,
Categories: Balancing Meals

Leave a Reply