Everyone has different eating habits, but in the United States, it is common to follow a meal plan consisting of a light or skipped breakfast, small lunch and large dinner. Although this has become typical for many Americans, studies show that making lunch the biggest meal of the day over dinner can have several health benefits.
According to sharpseniors.com, in order to maintain energy, people need to consume healthy and nutritious foods. Without sufficient calorie intake, the body does not fully function and loses energy.
Because lunch is in the middle of the day, eating a larger and more nourishing meal for lunch can help the body stay energized throughout the day.
Usually, physical activity decreases as it gets later in the day. Because individuals move around less at night compared to during the day, eating later in the day can lead to weight gain.
“But having a big meal shortly before bedtime doesn’t do our metabolism any favors; on the contrary, any extra calories we ingest at that hour get stored as fat,” an article by “Care 2 Make A Difference” said.
Food consumed at lunch can be used as energy to fuel different tasks throughout the rest of the day, and the calories from the meal can then be burned through daily activities.
According to livestrong.com, it is likely for calories from lunch to be stored as fat.
Eating fewer calories can lead to weight loss, but it is important not to skip meals altogether. Due to busy lives and hectic work schedules, many skip lunch.
When someone skips a meal, it slows their metabolism and the body does not have enough fuel to function at full capacity, sharpseniors.com said. Eating a well-balanced and filling meal for lunch can improve metabolism and give the body the nutrients it needs to last and focus throughout the day.
Suppresses Unhealthy Cravings
Eating barely anything at lunch can lead to hunger and junk food cravings later in the day. By eating a nutritious meal in the middle of the day, the body is more full and not as tempted to reach for unhealthy foods.
A Healthy Lunch
While making lunch the larger meal of the day can have health benefits, it is important to not use lunch as an excuse to overeat. To maintain the highest level of energy and to get full health benefits, eat a well-balanced lunch incorporating multiple food groups.
According to sharpseniors.com, a healthy lunch should be between 400-600 calories and include vegetables, fruit, whole grain, dairy and lean protein.
Lunch in Europe and Hispanic Countries
In most European and Hispanic countries, lunch is the largest meal of the day. Rather than saving the biggest meal for dinner like the United States, these countries eat a light yet nutritious breakfast, a large lunch and a small dinner.
In Spain, for example, lunch is the largest meal, often consisting of several courses, and is eaten between 1:30-3:30 p.m. Eating a large lunch has become a part of the culture of Spain.
Typically, Spaniards will take a break for a few hours during lunch and stores shut down so people can have lunch with their families.
Eating lunch as the largest meal of the day can offer several health benefits. However, like any other meal, it is still important to incorporate a well-balanced diet of nutritious foods.
How to Eat Lunch As Your Largest Meal and Lose Weight. Livestrong. Web. 23 April 2012.
Meal and the Culture of Spain. About.com. Web. 23 April 2012. http://spanishfood.about.com/od/discoverspanishfood/a/spain_meals.htm
Why Lunch Should Be Your Biggest Meal of the Day. Sharp Seniors. Web. 23 April 2012.
13 Healthy Diet Habits from Around the World. Care 2 Make a Difference. Web. 23 April 2012.
Reviewed April 23, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith