Is Eating Between Meals Healthy?

Do you find that in order to get through the day you snack a lot or eat between meals? Many health experts say eating small, frequent meals is a good idea to maintain health, weight, and blood sugar levels. But snacking between meals and eating “all day long” has really just become a symptom of so many health ailments in our culture. Eating between meals can actually lead to health issues and disease. Here’s why:

Frequent hunger is a sign that you are not feeling satisfied and are therefore not getting adequate nutritional requirements out of meals. The result is that you must supplement with something in addition to what you have already eaten. Because most people lack the time (and often the desire) to prepare something healthful, what ends up being eaten are foods with little to no nutritional value. Frequent eating helps to promote cravings in the body. Many people feed their cravings with unhealthy choices such as convenience foods or processed snacks loaded with hydrogenated, rancid oils and fats, refined sugars, and white flours. Eating these foods regularly can cause weight gain, irritability, fatigue, and headaches which lead to many other health disorders such as heart disease, auto-immune problems, Diabetes, high-blood pressure, and cancer.

When the body has not completed the digestive process, it cannot fully perform the task at hand to handle additional food coming in. This sets the stage for digestive and metabolic problems. Incoming food only gets partially-digested. As a result, the first batch of food in the digestive process begins to rot and becomes a source of toxins to the body.

Eating off-schedule from regular meals times also greatly disturbs the natural biorhythms of the body. Because the body performs certain functions on a time schedule, irregular eating habits disrupt the natural clock-work of bodily processes. For instance, the largest meal of the day should be consumed at lunchtime. If your largest meals are eaten during breakfast or dinner, this can alter your body’s regular schedule of digestion and toxin removal and cause issues. Similarly, if you eat meals late at night, you disrupt a major toxin dump which normally occurs between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. This allows unflushed toxins to remain in the body, causing health issues. Late-night eating interrupts this cleansing process performed by the liver. To allow this process to occur, meals should be eaten no later than 7 p.m.

To get control of food cravings and get your body back on track for being healthy, here are some things to be aware of when your body is craving something to eat:

  • When you feel the urge to eat between meals, it can often be a sign of dehydration. When you feel hungry between meals, try drinking 8 or more ounces of filtered water and wait ten or fifteen minutes. If you still feel hungry, carefully consider the choices you make for a snack.
  • If you feel the need to eat something sweet, try a piece of fruit instead of a processed, sugary product such as a muffin, cookie, or pastry.
  • The best way to avoid the temptation of eating foods that are unhealthy in the first place is to remove those items from your home. Don’t purchase processed foods. Stick to real, whole and traditionally- prepared foods: this includes organic meats, poultry, game animals, and dairy products that chemical, and hormone/antibiotic-free, organic fruits and vegetables that are pesticide/herbicide-free, real oils and fats like butter, tallow, lard, olive oil, palm oil, and coconut oils, and whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and rice (all soaked or sprouted). Read labels and become educated about what is healthy to eat. If a food is conventionally-produced or has anything added to it, it is likely not a healthy choice for consumption.
  • Make your biggest meal of the day at lunch time. The body is designed to handle the largest intake of food at mid-day. Avoid eating larger meals at breakfast (when the body is just getting going) or dinner (when the body is starting to wind down for the day).
  • If you do get the urge for a snack, remember your body needs something substantive. Eat foods like organic fresh fruits and vegetables, raw cheeses and nuts, sprouted grain breads with real butter or raw almond butter, raw milk or yogurt made from raw milk and organic fruit for smoothies, cut-up leftover organic meats and poultry, freshly juiced fruits and vegetables (stick to greens and low glycemic fruits such as berries, while avoiding carrots and beets which have high sugar content for juicing) with olive oil or coconut oil added for necessary fats that will keep you from becoming hungry again soon. Use a bit of raw honey or Stevia for added sweetness if desired.

When you start focusing on getting more nutrition out of meals and eating real, whole foods, you will find that your in-between meal eating will become less and less over time. This is because your body will receive the nutrition it needs from the meals you eat. You should notice an improved sense of well-being and more energy from picking up good eating habits while discarding those which can cause your health to be less than optimal. If you find yourself still needing snacks in between meals, make healthier choices about those foods and give your body the substance and nutrition it needs with real food.

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this site and read the other real food posts listed there.

11 Comments

  • September 18, 2009 - 4:10 PM | Permalink

    Wow. No one ever put it quite that way. I also never knew about the toxin dump at night. I always regarded the “no snacking” and “no eating late night” as one more way for the diet dictorcrats to deprive me of the food my body craved. Now that you put it into the context of good digestion it makes perfect sense. Thank you!!

  • September 18, 2009 - 5:02 PM | Permalink

    Yes, you are right, I have many times heard the diet dictocrats say to avoid eating late at night, but I believe this is one piece of knowledge that actually remained with modern health rhetoric until the modern era – unlike most other good advice about eating and nutrition. Of course, the diet dictocrats clearly don’t have a clue about the real reason why you shouldn’t eat late at night. Their reasoning is usually centered around avoiding raiding the refrigerator so you won’t eat more calories and fat. You know they are very big on eating low-fat and avoiding a lot of calories – but again, they are miss entirely the point about health and weight in that they don’t acknowledge the body’s need for real fat and calories to keep energy levels up and body functions optimal. Silly rabbits.

  • September 18, 2009 - 5:51 PM | Permalink

    Very very good read. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    Snacking basically begets more snacking am I right?

  • September 18, 2009 - 6:59 PM | Permalink

    I think occasional snacking is not a problem, it’s what you do on a regular basis. Even I find that with my very healthy diet that sometimes I need a snack to tide me over until the next meal. Although I mostly don’t feel hungry between meals anymore as I used to before I changed my eating habits. The key is to eat healthy meals so that you are providing your body with the most optimal nutrition possible, and then when you are hungry for a snack, make it something healthy that counts! :)

  • September 18, 2009 - 9:18 PM | Permalink

    Love the tips! I’ve found the dehydration thing to be true more often than not. Whenever I get a midday craving, I drink water. Within ten minutes I feel so much better!

    Thanks for sharing this in today’s carnival.

    Cheers,
    ~KristenM
    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  • Jen
    September 20, 2009 - 3:12 AM | Permalink

    Great post! Since we’ve switched our diets to traditional foods, we don’t snack much between meals either. I also find we don’t eat as much at meals either, since our nutritional needs are being met with real food.

    Good to see you back, Raine. :) I hope the homeschooling is getting easier!

  • September 22, 2009 - 8:53 PM | Permalink

    I find that I don’t need to snack when I’m eating nourishing foods, but when I veer off my usual fare I’m plagued by cravings and headaches and an insistent urge to snack.

  • September 28, 2009 - 4:05 AM | Permalink

    Kristen and Jenny – yeah, it’s pretty much true that when I don’t eat as well I find myself getting “snacky” again. Not that it’s difficult to want to eat healthy, it’s just on some occasions our schedule doesn’t allow for it like when we’re rushed to go someplace or are off our normal schedule. I find that we make a big breakfast on the weekends and then just sort of “snack” through the rest of the day, but then I always find myself being really hungry by dinner time, which is not good. I usually end up over eating then.

    Jen – the homeschooling IS getting easier a bit…however, I am still spending a lot of time on schooling each day and still find that I don’t have time to do research and write articles the way I used to…but, hopefully I can get back on schedule soon! I’ve got three articles that are half-finished, one about the homeschooling experience which I think everyone will find most interesting. I hope you and your family are doing well too! :)

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