How many meals do you eat each day? 3 square meals? Or, are you more 3 meals and 3 snacks kind of person? Or, maybe there are no real meals, rather a general grazing pattern of eating which sees you move from one cup of coffee to your next biscuit or piece of fruit throughout the entire day. While the number of meals we consume may be due to habit or circumstance, it may come as a surprise to hear that psychologically we differentiate a ‘meal’ in our minds very differently to the way we conceptualise snacks, and as such committing to nutritionally balanced meals through the day, as opposed to random snacks is an important aspect of calorie and weight control.
Take a moment to consider a time when you had an indulgent lunch meal out – perhaps it was for a special occasion or celebration, but chances are if you enjoyed a full, hot meal with multiple courses you also noticed that you were not overly hungry for several hours – you may have even skipped dinner. Then, take a moment to compare this to a typical lunch on the run – maybe a salad, or sushi roll or quick sandwich. Chances are you don’t even sit down to enjoy it, rather grab and go whilst focusing on something else.
When we grab snacks and even quick meals on the go, not only do we barely notice what we have eaten, but psychologically we do not compute that we have eaten a ‘meal’ and as such are more likely to keep eating, and grazing through the day, hungry or not. In fact, studies have shown that individuals who consumed their lunch whilst watching TV, did not eat more at lunchtime, but consumed significantly more calories throughout the afternoon. Researchers concluded that it was the lack of meal time awareness at lunch which resulted in mindless overeating throughout the remainder of the day.
It is for this reason that committing to at least one ‘balanced’ meal throughout the day, or even better, take time to enjoy a hot, balanced meal is not only likely to benefit blood glucose levels and energy in general, but also support calorie control by reducing the mindless munching. The added benefit of a hot meal, especially at this time of year, is that it is much more likely to register as a ‘meal’ psychologically, and a such keep you full and satisfied for several hours, rather than feeling unsatisfied after a bland salad or simple sandwich or wrap.
The key thing to consider when choosing a hot lunch option is knowing how to get the mix of foods right so you have a satisfying meal but not a mix of foods that are so heavy that you feel like you need a nap after your break. Calorie controlled, nutritionally balanced options like meals from the Lean Cuisine range strike the perfect balance here – offering 300-400 calories per serve, and a good mix of protein for fullness, carbs for energy and vegetables for a nutrient hit, not only will popular meals like Spaghetti Bolognese or Thai Green Curry be something to look forward to each day, but you will find yourself fueled until late afternoon, reducing the desire for a trip to the vending machine. Plus, a wide range of meal options, including the new Veg’d Up range mean that you can literally eat a different lunch meal every single day, whilst keeping your calorie intake on track.
So, if you constantly struggle to eat well throughout the work day, and end up grazing and snacking throughout the afternoon, try enjoying a warm meal as a routine part of your day. Not only will your nutritional intake be improved, but your health and weight too may benefit.