Friday, April 06, 2007


Column: Maintain stamina all day by eating healthful mini meals

Who isn't guilty of skipping breakfast on a busy morning or your lunch when your schedule has you running crazy? What generally comes after is that unpleasant time when your mood takes a hit and energy levels plummet. Then there is the missed meal rebound effect, when you finally eat and find out you are so famished you end up overeating or eating something you would generally not consume. It's a vicious cycle, but there is a way to eat that can ward off hunger pangs and dramatic energy dips. It is a simple eating pattern called grazing.

Nibbling for good nutrition in place of the standard three-meal-a-day regime divides your dining experiences into five or six small meals or lightens up your three main meals, and supplements them with a couple of snacks. Spreading your daily nourishment throughout the day keeps the body continuing along a smooth pace. The largest benefit of this plan? Sustained energy.

By evening out your daily caloric intake, grazing keeps your body consistently fueled with nutrients, which leads to a better mental and physical performance, a brighter mood and less fatigue. And to top it off, the right balance of carbohydrate, protein and fats help stabilize your metabolism.

For grazing to work, you have to pay attention to food choices and portion control. One method is simply to count calories or serving sizes. Shoot for the same number of calories or serving size for each of the three main meals, while dividing the rest among snacks. Or if you are aiming for five to six mini meals, make sure each has approximately the same caloric or serving size count.

Balancing nutrition is just as important as balancing calories. Eating healthy foods does not give the green light to eat all you want. The ideal daily combination for an individual is 50 percent to 60 percent of total calories from carbohydrate, 15 percent to 20 percent of total calories from protein and 25 percent to 30 percent of total calories from fat (with no more than 7 percent to 10 percent from saturated fat). Don't let these numbers complicate matters -- in fact, you may already have the right ratios in your diet if you make healthy choices and eat a variety of whole foods.

Aiming for a combination of these macronutrients will make you feel more satisfied so you won't feel famished by the next mini meal. For example, a hummus sandwich with roasted vegetables fits the bill. So does a banana with a dollop of peanut butter or an apple with a piece of cheese. You could even fit in a piece of chocolate on a grazing plan when you pair it up with protein-packed, low-saturated fat food, such as nuts.

Sarah Hospod is a registered dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department a The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Hospod and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

About the hummus - I hope you're aware of the huge difference between the homemade dish and the packaged version. When you make hummus by your self, it is not only much more tasty, but also much more healthy.
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