Nutrition and ‘eating healthy’ can be a HUGE roadblock for a lot of people and is one of those things that people always talk about but never start. Part of the reason is people don’t know where to begin, so they don’t.
If this sounds like you or you’ve been struggling for one reason or another to get your nutrition in check, then this post is for you! Today’s post is inspired by one of the most common questions I get when it comes to food: “What should I be eating?” And I typically answer that question with another question: "Do you eat at least three meals a day?" Many times the answer is no. Before I even help someone assess what they’re putting in their mouth, my first piece of advice on what you should be eating is to start by eating three meals a day and then layer on what those meals consist of.
The goal of this post is to give you a very simple starting point to begin forming new habits around eating. I’ll break down why it’s important to eat three meals a day and the role each meal plays in keeping you well-fed and well-fueled throughout the day.
*Note: those eating for athletic performance may eat more than three meals a day. The focus of this post is to encourage you to be consistently eating all three "typical" meals every single day.
START BY EATING 3 MEALS
Why do I recommend to start by eating three meals and then tackle the rest later? Because this is a simple way for someone to ease into healthy eating and is a basic habit that many people lose sight of as they get older. Often times people skip a meal or two or eat at odd times during the day, which creates bad habits that lead to worse habits around food. The intention of eating three meals a day is to get you and your body into better habits around food. It will also help you lay the framework to later layer on a nutrition component when it’s time to take a look at what you’re eating.
Let’s take a look at each meal of the day and the role it plays in your day and in your nutrition.
Breakfast is usually the biggest hang up when it comes to getting in three meals a day. Common reasons breakfast is tough for people is that they don’t have time, they don’t like breakfast food, they aren’t hungry in the morning, or they simply don’t think they need to eat breakfast. And to all of these reasons I would call bullsh*t.
Each meal of the day is important, but breakfast is what jumpstarts your metabolism and tells your body it’s time to take on the day. After fasting for 8 hours while you sleep, your body and your brain are in need of some fuel upon waking up.
Some would argue that skipping breakfast is a good way to cut calories as a form of weight loss, however, studies show that skipping breakfast actually causes people to eat more calories throughout the day (source). This is probably because by the time you actually eat your first meal you’re so hungry that you overeat. Eating breakfast not only gives you the energy to start the day strong, but it also keeps your hunger at bay throughout the day.
Going more than 4-5 hours in between breakfast and lunch, you may start to get a foggy feeling in your brain, which usually indicates that your blood sugar is low. A mid-day meal is what refills your gas tank to carry you throughout the second half of your day. This is why lunch is just as important as breakfast; it helps keep your metabolism burning and will continue to help curb your cravings to snack throughout the day.
Lunch is also a good mental break in your day. Whether you work a 9-5 job or not, a mid-day meal is a good excuse to take a break from whatever you’re doing and reset heading into the afternoon.
Dinner is important for refueling you from the activities of the day. Whether you exercise or not, you’re still burning calories and using lots of brain power throughout the day, so it’s important to replenish.
Dinner is also essential because it’s typically the last time you’re going to eat before going to bed. When you’re sleeping, your body is rebuilding from the day’s activities and eating dinner will help support that. Since your body will be fasting for 8 hours or so while you’re asleep, you definitely don’t want to skip dinner and make that fasting window even larger. This will help keep your blood sugar levels and metabolism in check.
A meal in the evening is also a great way to mentally wind down from the day. It gives you a chance to slow down from a busy schedule and decompress from a good day’s work!
Eating three meals a day is important because:
It creates healthy habits around food and gives you a framework to build from when it comes to tackling ‘healthy eating’ and nutrition.
It ensures you are well-fed and well-fueled throughout the day, which keeps your blood sugar and your metabolism in check.
Meals provide natural breaks in the day, giving you a chance to reset both physically and mentally.
If you are struggling to get started with ‘healthy eating’, start by eating three meals a day. If you’ve already nailed this part of the game, work on eating your meals at consistent times throughout the day and then start taking a look at what your meals consist of. (and be sure keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about tackling what you’re eating once you’re consistently eating three meals every. single. day.)
What's your biggest hang-up when it comes to 'healthy eating'? Let me know in the comments below and I might just turn it into an upcoming post!