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Skipping meals backfires

Skipping meals is a common practice among people trying to lose weight. We skip breakfast, eat a very small lunch and then plan to have a normal evening meal. Unfortunately, this method of calorie control almost always backfires. We arrive home, head straight for the fridge, and eat whatever we see first – quickly followed by what we see second, third, and so on. We are so hungry, we eat without thinking about what is going into our mouths. We also tend to eat much more quickly than is advisable, so fast in fact that our brains don’t get the message that our stomachs are full until long after we’ve eaten more than necessary.

Eating too much at night starts a cycle of not being hungry in the morning, skipping lunch, and then gorging again at night.

A much more sensible – and effective – way to practice weight control is to eat reasonably throughout the day, pay close attention to hunger cues and respond appropriately. Eating for the wrong reasons such as anger or stress or boredom is the impetus for mindless eating. Eating only when you are truly hungry assures your body you are listening to it and not overriding hunger and fullness cues. Be sure to eat healthy options as often as you can.

A huge key point is to eat until you are satisfied (but not stuffed) all day long. Denying a delicious and nutritious breakfast and lunch is denying your body the nutrients it needs to fuel productivity for the day. Choose foods that are in line with your DASH goals like high fiber foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains) that fill you up. And your DASH servings of low-fat dairy, eggs, and meat (all rich in protein) will help keep you feeling full.

Spend some time thinking about foods you enjoy that will help you accomplish this goal and make sure to have them handy. Any of the following, along with a serving or two of fruits or vegetables is a great choice:

  • One-half turkey sandwich (about 2 oz turkey) with low-fat mayonnaise on whole grain bread, piled high with lettuces, tomato, sprouts, and shredded carrots
  • A cup of low-fat Greek yogurt, gobs of grapes, and ¼ c. low-fat granola
  • Whole wheat crackers with two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • Beans and rice
  • A whole wheat wrap spread with hummus and filled with shredded cabbage, red bell pepper slices, and a splash of vinaigrette
  • Whole grain cereal and low-fat milk, plus a generous serving of fruit mixed in

With some forethought it’s extremely easy to figure out what actions to take during the day to prevent yourself from being so hungry in the evening that you compromise your efforts to control your weight.

This message courtesy of my nutrition team at the DASH for Health online nutrition program (co-written by Megan Murphy and moi). 

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