Strategies to Mastering Your Meals
The Power of Eating in 3's
#1 - Don't Count on the RDA
The Recommended daily allowance or "RDA" of nutrients for each person, based on a 2000 calorie diet. It recommends what the daily intake of nutrients should be. These standards are good for vitamins and minerals however they are completely inadequate for protein, fat and carbohydrates. The RDA for macronutrients is too broad and too high for carbohydrates and much too low for protein. The reality is that is you follow the RDA guidelines your blood sugar will likely be unstable. Understanding your personal meal parameters will provide you with the correct nutrient ratios and calories per meal to stabilize your blood sugar.
#2 - Know the 3 Core Principles of Blood Sugar Stabilization
Think about your core principles of life. Once they are set they remain intact and unwavering. Your choices however may continually change and evolve as you go through life. This same logic can be applied to your nutrition. Your blood sugar will always remain stable if you consistently apply 3 core principles.
- Eat a balanced meal every 3 hours (5-6 meals a day)
- Maintain balanced nutrient ratios (protein, fat & carbohydrates)
- Consume the correct amount of calories per meal
These principles are the core to your nutrition and need to be consistent and unwavering, just like the principles you follow in day to day life. Once your core is set in place, the number of choices of foods you have is limitless, allowing you to add variety and experiment with different food choices!
Add a fiber supplement!
#3 - Believe in the Importance of the Quality of Food
Eating "Clean" (high quality food) is a key factor in achieving your goals quickly. Your meal plans should be labeled "High Quality", "Medium Quality" or "Low Quality". It is important to balance each meal correctly to match your nutritional parameters; the only difference is the quality of food contained in the meal, which determines the quality of the meal over all. 4 factors that determine the quality of food:
- The number of ingredients in the food - the more ingredients listed on the food label, the more processed the food. Food items that are more processed get digested faster and may spike your blood sugar.
- The state in which the food is eaten (dry/liquid, coarse/finely ground, raw/cooked) The closer to it's natural state the food remains, the slower it is digested. Slower digestion yields better blood sugar stability.
- The quantity of fiber in the food - Since fiber can not be digested, it slows down the rate of digestion. This assists with maximum blood sugar stabilization
- The amount of sodium (salt) in the food - Salt enhances the taste of food and it is a great preservative, however every gram of sodium holds onto water molecules. This causes the body to bloat and has a negative effect on how your body processes food. The lower the sodium content the higher the quality. Your goal is to limit your sodium intake to 1,500 - 2,000 mg per day.
High / Medium / Low Quality
Beef, chicken, egg whites, eggs (whole), fish, pork, soy beans, turkey breast
Canned meat, garden burgers, Protein powder, sandwich meats, soy products (packaged) dairy products
Protein Bars, Ready to drink protein drinks
Beans, (fresh) brown rice, fruit, hot cereals, sweet potatoes, vegetables, yams
Bread, canned beans, canned fruit, canned vegetables, cold cereals, crackers, pasta, potatoes
Ice Cream, Potato chips, white rice
Avocado, flaxseed oil, natural nut butters, nuts, olive oil, olives
Canola oil, Guacamole, processed nut butters, vegetable oil
Butter, creamy salad dressing, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream
General Mealtime Guidelines
- 7:00 A.M. Meal #1 - Breakfast. Eat within an hour of waking. If you are not hungry only eat a 1/2 meal. The sooner you eat the better for your metabolsim.
- 10:00 A.M. Meal #2 - Mid-morning meal
- 1:00 P.M. Meal #3 - Lunch
- 4:00 P.M. Meal #4 - Mid-afternoon meal
- 7:00 P.M. Meal #5 - Dinner
- 10:00 P.M. Meal #6 - Bedtime - Your last meal for each day should be consumed within an hour of going to sleep. If you are not hungry eat a meal of only protein & fat.
#4 - Follow Your Mealtime Guidelines
Feeding your body consistently and frequently throughout each day is the key to increasing your metabolism and releasing stored fat. You can accomplish this by eating several meals per day.
Your mealtimes will depend on when you wake and when you go to bed each day. The time line to the right is just a guideline to show you how to fit in 5 to 6 meals per day. Adjust it according to your regular daily schedule.
- Meals should be consumed every 3 to 4 hours
- If you miss a meal, simply eat one as soon as possible. Don't feel like you have to make up a meal your body will tell you when to eat. Eat when you feel hungry, it's your bodies way to telling you to catch up on calories.
- The goal is to be ready to eat (not starving) and satisfied after each meal.
- If you are starving at mealtime you have waited too long and if you are full after each meal, you ate too much. If it's been 4 hours since your last meal and you are not ready to eat, cut the meal in half. If the meal made you feel full instead of satisfied, cut the meal into a quarter the next time this happens.
- Eat before bed. If you eat a balance meal before bed your blood sugar will stay stable and you will NOT store fat, you will actually increase your metabolism. Your body is designed to last 6-8 hours without food (during sleep) That is why it's important to eat before and within an hour upon waking, it reduces the chance of creating any caloric deficits.
#5 - Focus Only on Complete Protein as Your Protein Source in Your Meals
Protein is the main factor in the growth, repair and maintenance of your body's tissue. It is composed of amino acids that contain both essential (your body cannot make them) and nonessential (your body can make them) amino acids. There are 2 types of proteins; complete & incomplete.
- Complete Protein - Has all the essential amino acids and can be used immediately by your body, it comes from animal sources like chicken, beef, fish and turkey, or from animal by-products like milk, cheese and eggs. For vegetarians, soy, quinoa and hemp.
- Incomplete Protein - lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. They can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. They must be combined with another source of protein to become complete. For example; combining rice and beans creates a complete protein combination.
Picking a complete protein source is the key to keeping your blood sugar stable. Many people think that peanut butter is a source of protein but peanut butter, as well as all nuts and nut butters, contain only incomplete protein. (They lack one or more of the essential amino acids) It is an excellent source of fat and it's grams of protein are not counted.
*NOTE: People who have digestive challenges may experience temporary constipation from an increase of protein intake. Your body will adapt to metabolizing the increase in protein, however be sure to take 25-35 grams of fiber per day (psyllium husk is a great supplement) take digestive enzymes, drink more water, and take probiotics found in your local health food store that will assist in optimal intestinal health. You can try one or all of these suggestions to help you solve any constipation challenges.
#6 - Optimize Your Meal Order
Your digestive system's purpose is to break down your food into the simplest form and each protein fat, and carbohydrate is chemically broken down at a different pace. So it is important to understand how this process works so that you can maximize the stability of your blood sugar. By consuming your nutrients in a particular order you will keep your blood sugar stable by slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates.
- Eat your protein first. Protein begins breaking down in the stomach.
- Eat your fat second. Fat slows down the release of acid of the stomach (hydrochloric acid) The breakdown of nutrients is slowed down by having a smaller amount of acid in the stomach.
- Eat your carbohydrates last. Carbohydrates begin chemical breakdown in your mouth. Eating carbohydrates last will allow the other nutrients to begin their digestion process first. This will enable a more effective time release of all nutrients into the blood and prevent a spike in your blood sugar.
#7 Learn How to Order in Restaurants
Eating at restaurants is an experience and for some people a real treat. Most of us enjoy the different flavors because its not something we could have made at home. Restaurant food is typically loaded with fat, sodium, complex carbohydrates and a lot of calories. Which is the reason you may feel sluggish and bloated after every restaurant experience. But it is possible to follow a nutrition program and eat correctly in restaurants, simply follow these few guidelines.
- Decide whether you are eating "on" or "off" plan at the restaurant
- Make sure you blood sugar is stable when you get there. Don't go starving!
- Request all sauce & salad dressing on the side
- Request all food item be prepared without oil or butter. Understand this meal will still have more fat in it even though you have requested no oil or butter
- Enjoy your meal, eat it at a slow pace. Your goal is to finish your meal feeling satisfied not stuffed. eating slowly will prevent you from overeating.