Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eat Often, Eat Well (Rule #1)

We've had some posts about exercise, so it's time to get back to the subject of diet.

Again, I want to emphasize, this is about diet, not about "a diet". It's about how you eat, ordinarily, routinely, day-to-day, for a lifetime. Not about a special eating plan that you try to diligently stick with for a few weeks, and then go back to old bad habits, because you just can't stand "the diet" any more!

A few weeks ago I listed 7 "Rules for Eating." Now, I want to say that I'm not much of a rules guy. I hate being dictated to, and I don't like trying to dictate a list of rigid laws to others. I'd rather call these the "7 Principles" or something, but that just doesn't sound as good.

The first "rule" is "Eat Often, Eat Well." Ok, maybe that's really 2 principles, but having 7 total seemed good, so I didn't want to separate them.

Many people have found through experience that eating more small meals works better for them than fewer large meals. There is research that shows clearly that 3 meals is much better than 1. As I recall, the research isn't as clear on 5 or 6 versus 3, but many people have found that this works better for them, especially while they are trying to lose weight. The point is to avoid hunger that may drive you to eating something that you will wish you hadn't!

If you eat 5 or 6 meals per day, that means eating about every 3 hours. That doesn't fit well with many people's (including mine) work patterns. But if you work an 8-hour day, you may already have a habit of a "coffee break" mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Those are great times for the in-between small meals.

Eating late at night is controversial. Some people have found that it is easier for them to lose weight if they don't eat after a certain hour. I haven't fount that to be the case for me. I'd suggest trying it both ways, and do what works for you.

What should you eat for all of those meals? Ideally, every one of the meals should contain some protein, some fat and some carbs. Specifically, they should not be just carbs. (Get it? Don't even ask if a doughnut would be an adequate mid-morning meal!) I don't have space here to suggest specific menus, and besides if you only ate menus that I suggested here, it would get boring before long.

However, I'll mention a few things I like to eat for the in-between meals. Peanuts or other nuts provide all three macronutrients. Bananas are almost pure carb, so you shoud eat them with some fat and protein, but they are a nice, compact, easily stored, pre-wrapped snack food. Apples are great. A piece of meat is really good, but storage might be a problem. Coming from your fridge at 7 AM and being in a warm lunch bag until 9:30 shouldn't be a problem. Being there until 2:30 or 3:00 PM might be. But if you can keep you lunch bag in a fridge, or if you get one of those insulated bags, and keep an ice pack in it, it should be fine. Boiled eggs are handy, pre-wrapped, and full of protein and good fat.

Most of all, what you eat should be things you like, or at least don't hate! That's the "eat well" part. Your food should be fresh, appetizing, and tasty. Don't force yourself to eat something just because someone said that it's good diet food, or good for you in some other way. Don't bother.

See you on the road!



No comments: