“You cannot leave the table! You have to finish everything you have in your plate, otherwise you wont have enough energy to go outside and play with your friends”. Does it ring a bell? I’m ready to say that we all have this image in the back of our memory: Our mothers and grandmothers making us finish whatever we had in the plate, with the promise we could go play after.
And that’s how we have been brought up, and this is how we are raising our kids: EAT EAT EAT!!
However, if we stop to think about it, the more we eat, the less energy we have sometimes. Have you noticed how tired you feel after a Sunday family lunch when you think that the food won’t stop coming to the table? And how difficult it is to focus at work after lunch?
When we over-indulge in food high in carbohydrates, fats or sugars, a few things happen in the digestion process, that can leave us feeling exhausted and sleepy. When we eat, our brain sends signals to our body to slow down and digest the incoming food. The more you put in, the harder your digestive system has to work - and the less energy left you will have.
If your meal portion was full of sugar and simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and flours, then your brain will also be dealing with an increase of insulin and elevated levels of serotonin and melatonin (chemicals associated with drowsiness).
Eating smaller meals more regularly will help regulate your blood glucose levels, as well as releasing energy gradually instead of in one big hit. Ideally, we must be eating five times a day, every 2 to 3 hours:
Breakfast - This is the most important meal of your day. Never skip it! You need to make sure you are getting enough energy from this meal for the rest of your day. Cereals, fruit or toasts are a good option, rich in proteins and high on fibers.
Mid morning snack - Just to make sure you survive until lunch time. A fruit, a yogurt or a few crackers are always the best options for these morning cravings.
Lunch - Your lunch can be slightly heavier than your morning meals. This will see you through the largest part of the day. Eat whatever you feel like (avoiding the normal no-no’s, like processed and fast food), just don’t over do it.
Evening snack - An evening snack will ensure that you get through to your dinner without unbearable hunger pangs. Must be similar to the mid morning snack.
Dinner - Your dinner should be a low calorie meal. This is because your metabolic activity is low at night and most of what you eat can get stored within the body instead of getting burnt off as energy.
You should not eat after dinner. However, if you really can’t control it, just grab a granola bar, a glass of milk or a fruit to tide you over.
You will see that by eating more times a day, your body is receiving just the necessary amount of food to boost your energy levels through-out the day and you feel much more energetic.