Key 1 - Eat Regular, Balanced Meals

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Eat REGULAR, BALANCED MEALS with CONTROLLED PORTIONS. Less food is better unless you are underweight or malnourished. Eat mindfully, eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied.

Starting your day without breakfast is a silly idea as you will be starting your work day with no “fuel in your tank”, seeing that your blood glucose is already quite low after an overnight fast. Expect a struggle to keep focused and ask the colleague next to you to elbow you if you should fall asleep in a meeting. Breakfast is in fact the most important meal of the day. A balanced breakfast is associated with easier weight loss, reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease and sharper brain function. It is an undisputed fact that one should have breakfast, even fad diets will advise you to have breakfast, but Smart Health dictates that it must be BALANCED.

You need to include balanced proportions of carbohydrates, fat and protein in your breakfast as with the other meals. This will optimise your nutritional intake and keep you satisfied for longer. A healthy, balanced meal will keep the average person satisfied for 3 to 5 hours. An oversized meal will last you longer (but also usually trigger more insulin release, which is not ideal), but after 6 hours your stomach is sure to be empty and your blood glucose low again. That is why you should have lunch and dinner. Not eating a balanced lunch creates the trap “overeating” come later afternoon and dinner.

The idea that by skipping meals you can save calories is a misnomer. It never works as your body will prompt you to “catch up” later in the day, which most often leads to over hunger and overeating, often on the wrong food. This is why irregular eaters struggle to lose weight. Irregular meals causes blood glucose fluctuations. Skipping meals and then eating more to catch up, puts stress on your organs that want to keep your blood glucose in the mid-range. It never pays off to save kilojoules by skipping meals, unless you had a bigger than normal snack, due to whatever reason.

The hunger and satiety centre in your brain should stay synchronized with your energy needs. When you are born it is quite accurate, but regularly skipping meals or overeating will confuse it. The Centenarians in the Blue Zones have regular SMALL meals. They eat little at a time, because they stop when they are full. Our parents were wrong when they taught us, sometimes threateningly so, to finish our food and clean the plate. The truth is that there is no health reason to eat past your satiety level.

When one is used to smaller meals it may happen that you will feel peckish after 3 to 4 hours and then it is a good time to have a snack in the form of a fruit, 2 – 3 dried fruits, a handful of nuts, or a cracker with a low fat spread, with tea or coffee.  It should be little though – don’t make meal of it, as it is just to keep you going until the next balanced meal. It is much easier to keep your snack small, if you had a balanced meal 2 – 3 hours before your snack. 

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References:
Buettner D. The Blue Zones: lessons for living longer from the people who’ve lived the longest. The National Geographic Society, 2008.
Butland B, Jebb S, Kopelman P, et al (2007): Foresight tackling obesities: Future choices – Project report. Government office for Science, Department of Innovation. Universities and skills. London.
Geuegnon C, Mougnin F, Simon-Rigaud ML, et al (2012): Effects of an in-patient treatment program based on regular exercise and a balanced diet on high molecular weight adiponectin, resistin levels and insulin resistance in adolescents with severe obesity. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 37(4):672 – 679.
Herder R and Demmig-Adams B (2004): The power of a balanced diet and lifestyle in preventing cardiovascular disease. Nutr Clin Care, 7(2):46 – 55.
Price S. Understanding the importance to health of a balanced diet (2005): Nurs Times, 101(1):30-31.
Rossouw JE. The diet-heart hypothesis, obesity and diabetes. S Afr J Clin Nutr. 2015;28(1):38-43.
Seedat YK and Rayner BL (2012): South African Hypertension Guide 2011. SAMJ,102(1): 60 -83. 
Willcox, Bradley J, Willcox, D Craig and Suzuki, Makoto. The Okinawa program: How the world’s longest-lived people achieve everlasting health – and how you can too. Clarkson Potter, 2001.
Willcox, BJ, Willcox, DC and Suzuki, M. The Okinawa diet plan: Get leaner, live longer and never feel hungry. Three Rivers Press, 2005.