Grazing and snacking have become the background to society, but you’re not a grazing animal! The argument used by some experts in favour of grazing and against main meals is that main meals send too big a load of carbohydrates, fats and proteins into your body at the same time. I would argue that this only happens when you have eaten the typical Sunday-lunch-type meal, say roast meat, roast potatoes and parsnips, a fat and sugar pudding like fruit crumble and custard, washed down with half a bottle of wine. Even if it’s just pasta, ice cream and a couple of bottles of beer, it’s the same thing. The load is huge. Fat, sugar and protein on an empty stomach send your system into overdrive. The alternative solution is a system of ‘grazing’ on five or six small meals a day, usually nibbled fruit, cereal bars or yoghurt. I can’t see that this suits us at all.
When you look at the three main types of eating pattern you’ll see how we should work with our natural eating rhythms:
Grazing – where you eat food that is available. Grazing animals, like cows and sheep, eat grass, fruits, leaves and seeds – all vegetable matter. They provide so few calories that the animals have to eat non-stop to fuel their energy, but they move very little in the course of a day.
Foraging – you unearth or seek out your food. Birds are foragers and scratch or dig for seeds, worms or insects which are high in proteins and fats and potentially provide many calories. However, the energy needed to fly or walk around to find the food means the energy benefits are almost cancelled out. Feeding is constant and sleeping time is minimal. Birds are always up with the dawn, trying to keep pace with their energy needs for flying.
Hunting – you go looking for your food. Animals that hunt eat once or twice a day and in between times, they rest. The huge calorie benefits from each kill provide energy for half a day, so there is no need to eat in between times. Cats, dogs and birds of prey are hunters, and spend many hours resting, idle or sleeping off their last meal.
Humans are hunters. The food you eat directly fuels your energy needs. People get fat when they eat like hunters but forage and graze as well, on foods with a high fat and sugar content, like biscuits. The energy value of a high-protein meal should last half a day, so a small meal between the two main meals should be of the low-calorie foraging variety, foods like seeds, leaves and fruit, which is why your diet specifies salad for lunch.
Your main meals should be breakfast and dinner, and they should be eaten between nine and twelve hours apart. You should have a light lunch and plenty to drink in the form of water or milk. On the whole, people give in to, or panic about feeling hungry in a way that is totally out of proportion to the problem. Nobody is ever far from food. It’s not as if you’ve got a ten-mile trek in deep snow before you can get to a meal. If you have excess body fat, you can manage a few hunger pangs. Here are a few rules:
- Don’t carry snacks around with you.
- Never miss meals.
- Never go without a meal to try to lose that extra half pound.
- Do build up a nice appetite for your main meals, and try not to spoil them by snacking.
- It is important to eat slow-release carbohydrates, and I have plenty of ideas for meals with foods which release their energy over several hours, rather than giving you an instant boost followed by a downer.