Listen to your body and learn to eat according to the phases of the day.
In this penultimate article on diet, I’ll look at circadian rhythms and how they affect you
To make life easy on your digestion, you shouldn’t snack all day, but nor should you overload your system with only large meals. It’s better to eat four or five small meals a day rather than three big ones. Many people benefit from a light breakfast, something to snack on at about 11.00, a main meal at lunch, a booster at about 4.00pm, and an early but light evening meal. That way, you’re eating larger portions when you need them most. The way of eating outlined below follows the programme in the book Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond, which is full of pseudo-scientific gibberish, but also offers some sound principles on nutrition.
From rising till noon, I find the best thing to eat is raw fruit and freshly-squeezed fruit juices, as much as you like. If you want to eat a lot of fruit, invest in a juicer – it’s the most useful thing you’ll ever buy. Juice from a juicer is completely different from bought juice (which in any case is processed – even the freshly squeezed stuff is pasturised). It’s thick and frothy and should be sipped like a soup.
When you juice your fruit, eat the pulp too but peel and deseed as necessary (there are also one or two pulps I don’t personally eat, such as kiwi and blackberries, because of the seeds). Nature designed fruit to be eaten whole, not juice-only – having only the juice gives you a sugar rush and packed calories without fibre, which is not a good move.
If you’re munchy at 11, eat a banana or some dried fruit. I am often astounded at the number of women who won’t eat a banana because it’s ‘high in calories’ but then starve themselves all day and down half a bottle of wine in the evening (not exactly a calorie-free option). A banana contains about 90 calories, and an apple about 50 – and the effort of eating the thing is going to burn up quite a lot of those calories anyway.
5 At lunchtime (preferably at 12.30 or so), eat your main meal and base it on vegetables. A big salad, or a stir-fry is ideal, and you should be able to find a salad box no matter where you work. Concentrate on vegetables with a high water content such as sweet peppers, tomatoes and courgettes (all technically fruits, of course). Place as many different colours on your plate as you can manage – colour is a quick guide to different vitamins and minerals. No dessert. If you’re desperate for something sweet, eat a spoon of pure unfiltered honey, or a cube of crystallised ginger afterwards, but try to wean yourself off the sweeties.
6 Mid-afternoon, say at 4.00, make time for a snack if you want one. If you like complex carbs, now’s a good time to eat them, but keep the amount small. A small slice of wholemeal toast is good, or a baked potato with a little butter or yoghurt. If you prefer to avoid complex carbs, a handful of raw nuts (chew them to death), or a banana, or a small handful of dates or other dried fruit are all good snacks. If you enjoy dairy products, a bowl of yoghurt or a small plate of cheese will also work. Having a snack at this time will get you through the afternoon nicely – you don’t need much, just about a saucerful.
7 Try to finish your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed. (I go to bed at 11.00, so I cook at 7.00 and finish by 8.00.) This means you’ve already digested for three hours or so before you lie down to sleep, so your food should have passed from your stomach into the small intestines. You’ll get a better night’s sleep for it.
Make your evening meal smaller than the meal you had at lunchtime but now is the best time of day to have protein. Have as many grams of protein as you weigh in kilos (I weigh 52 kilos, so I can have 52g of protein, which isn’t much). You may need more protein if you’re weight training or very physically active, but most of us eat WAY more than the recommended daily amount and your body can’t use it – it just excretes it, placing a demand on your kidneys.
Your protein might be cheese or nuts, or meat or fish, but some people feel it’s better to keep it to one kind rather than mixing proteins (so no slivered almonds on your fish…). And dieticians will always tell you to favour fish rather than meat, and lean meats such as chicken over fatty meats such as pork.
With your protein, have vegetables, not starches – if you mix proteins and carbs, it’s more taxing to your digestion. No dessert.
If you’re hungry before bed, eat a piece of fruit – this will pass from your stomach in about 30 minutes (45 or so for a banana), so it won’t impede your sleep.
Tomorrow: final part, diet basics.