About 80% of the patients I see in clinic walk into my office and say, with a guilt-ridden look, “I’m a meal skipper”. Their sheepish statement is usually followed by complaints of fatigue in the afternoons, terrible cravings at night, and all of them wanting to lose weight. Most know they shouldn’t be skipping meals, but many of them don’t know exactly why.
Eating regular meals and snacks balances blood sugar – evening out our body’s response to food intake through a hormone called insulin. Skipping meals throws off our insulin response, and there’s even some research to support that skipping breakfast may be a factor in causing type 2 diabetes.
Skipping meals early in the day, and then eating a large high-carbohydrate meal later can also lead to a blood sugar roller coaster with a blood sugar crash – causing weight gain, fatigue, even mood swings. So, what’s the best plan to smooth out the blood sugar roller coaster, maintain a healthy weight and feel energetic all day? 6 perfect mini-meals should do the trick. It’s beneficial to eat multiple small meals every few hours, each with a combination of protein, healthy fats and “slow” carbohydrates such as whole grains, whole starchy vegetables and low-glycemic sweeteners. This balanced combination at each mini-meal will keep you going all day.
Here’s an example of a 6-meal day with each meal spaced about 2-3 hours apart. We kept the meals simple while maximizing nutrition and flavor; and the entire day comes in at a very reasonable 1800 calories!
7am: Coconut Quinoa Bowl
To Make: Put ½ cup cooked quinoa (leftovers work well) in a bowl with ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk, and top with ¼ cup almonds and ½ cup berries.
10am Cashew Cranberry Orange Zing Bar
To Make: Unwrap and enjoy!
12pm “Seedy” Spinach and Egg Salad with Melon
To Make: Top baby spinach with grated carrots, 1 sliced egg, ¼ cup sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. Add 1 cup fresh melon chunks on the side.
3pm Hummus and Veggies
To Make: Slice carrots and red bell peppers, and dip into ¼ cup hummus.
6pm Simple Mediterranean Wrap
To Make: Spread ¼ cup goat cheese on a whole wheat or gluten-free wrap. Add leftover reheated ¾ cup cooked lentils and add sautéed tomatoes and spinach in olive oil.
7:30pm (time for dessert) Chocolate Coconut Zing bar
To Make: Unwrap and enjoy!
We’d like to know, what are some other mini-meals that you enjoy? Bon appetit!
All photos by Selva Wohlgemuth
Christine Weiss MS, RD, CDE is a dietitian and Bastyr University graduate who counsels people dealing with food allergies, diabetes and digestive issues. She enjoys working with Zing Bars to raise awareness about healthy living through online media.