If breakfast is the most important meal of the day for our health…and lunch is the pivotal meal that either continues or impairs a healthy day…then dinner is the meal that definitively makes or breaks a healthy day for us.
Healthy Tip of the Week #13
What’s a day in a life that lasts 80 or so years? When it comes to our health, a day is of paramount importance because our well-being now and in the future is the sum total of our daily actions in the areas of diet and exercise.
Why is this so? Because diet and activity are health determinant things we do every day, not just once a decade, a year, a month or even a week. Since we eat and are active to some extent every day, our health needs to be monitored on a daily scorecard, so to speak. What we do each day affects our health for better or for worse.
Have you ever noticed that you can eat healthy and do some activity from Monday to Friday only to see your health gains for the week undone by a mere weekend of poor eating and inactivity?
It isn’t fair, but it demonstrates that every meal we eat and every step we take has an impact on our health. And whenever we have an unhealthy day, it’s usually because of poor food choices at dinner or having an unhealthy and unnecessary snack just before going to bed.
Therefore, every dinner takes on a critical role because:
- An unhealthy dinner can ruin an otherwise healthy day. What a shame it is to eat well at breakfast and lunch only to waste that effort on the last meal of the day.
- A healthy dinner can salvage a poor breakfast or lunch selection. Finishing your day on a healthy note is hugely important for reasons noted below.
- What we eat at dinner can affect the quality of our sleep, especially when we eat after 8 p.m. Even if we have a healthy dinner, it can all be wasted with an unhealthy bedtime snack. This emphasizes the importance of each meal on our health.
- What we eat at dinner determines the overnight function of our digestive system. When we eat excess amounts of poor quality foods, our digestive system spends much of the night trying to digest that food to extract usable nutrients for our body organs and cells.
But when we have the proper foods at dinner, effective digestion can occur within a few hours, allowing us to go to bed on an empty stomach. This is the ideal situation because when there is no more food to digest, our digestive system burns stored body fat, helping us to lose weight even as we sleep.
What we choose to eat for dinner should take into account what we had for breakfast or lunch earlier in the day. The U.S. and Canadian food guides recommend that up to two-thirds of our daily nutritional intake should be in the form of low glycemic carbohydrates because these foods (calories) burn more easily and convert to energy, which is what sustains all our metabolic functions and activities for the day.
Therefore, unless you’ve had plenty of carbohydrate foods for breakfast and lunch, your dinner should feature low glycemic foods. And if a steak awaits you for dinner, you can minimize the damage by not combining that protein source with carbohydrates. To optimize digestion, substitute that baked potato for a light garden salad and some steamed vegetables.
HEALTHIER FOOD CHOICES
Let’s look at some of the better protein and carbohydrate food choices that make for a healthy dinner:
- Limit yourself to one lean steak a week. Do the same with a burger, making sure that it has extra lean beef content.
- A better protein option is chicken without the skin. A chicken or turkey burger is a healthier alternative to beef.
- The best protein option to beef is salmon and other salt or fresh water fish, excluding shell fish. This allows you to avoid the Trans fats and saturated fats found in beef while loading up on healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
- Eggs are a versatile source of protein and they are no longer exclusive to breakfast. If you have a carbohydrate breakfast, why not crack open a couple of eggs for dinner and turn them into a fluffy vegetable omellete with a hearty garden salad on the side?
- Salads are a lot more creative than they used to be. As long as the dressing is light, you can turn a salad into a meal by adding slivers of chicken and/or shrimp. Other healthy salad toppings include almonds or walnuts, whole wheat garlic croutons, assorted beans and even pieces of fresh fruit.
- Unfortunately, a baked potato to compliment that steak or slab of pork is not a healthy combination. However, these days, a baked potato can stand on its own as a good carbohydrate meal. You can add fresh ingredients like chives and green onions with sautéed onions and peppers, topped with a minimal amount of unsalted butter and low fat sour cream.
- Pasta is the most popular carbohydrate dinner choice but we now know there is healthy pasta and unhealthy pasta. White or egg noodle pasta is now taboo and should be avoided for its detrimental effect on our blood sugar levels. Pasta made from 100% whole wheat grains is the healthy pasta and should be the only pasta used when combining it with a protein such as chicken or veal. As a stand-alone dinner, whole wheat pasta with an assortment of raw or grilled vegetables is a healthy choice.
- White breads are also a killer in that they are the result of processed or ‘dead’ ingredients. White bread and rolls have very little nutritional value and they cause a harmful spike in blood sugar levels. Multi-grain breads or 100% whole wheat bread offer plenty of nutrients and help to stabilize blood sugar levels. When it comes to breads, the golden rule is – The darker, the better.
Fiber is essential to our health not only for the unique nutrients they provide, but also for the natural cleansing effect fiber has in concert with our eliminative organs such as our liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestinal tract and colon.
More and more studies indicate that many of our chronic illnesses and diseases start in the colon. Oftentimes, this is due to rotting or putrefied proteins and simple carbohydrates that have not been efficiently digested and removed from our system as waste.
Some of the top fibrous foods to enjoy at dinner are:
- Multi-grain or 100% whole wheat breads.
- Nuts and seeds as a salad topping or pre-dinner snack.
- Fresh vegetables and freshly squeezed vegetable juices.
- Fresh fruits and freshly squeezed fruit juices as a starter or a healthy post-dinner snack.
Having at least six servings of these fiber foods daily is the best thing we can do for our internal well-being.
A nutritious dinner not only completes our day on a healthy note, it can determine whether sleep is a friend or enemy to our health and sets the stage for the next morning when we get to do it all over again.
That’s why every meal matters and our health never gives us a day off. Only we can consciously take a day off to the detriment of our health. Instead, choose to have a healthy dinner tonight.
A healthy tip is easier to implement than a complete change of diet, so please share your healthy tips with our readers. Our blog’s mission is to help you improve your health, one easy-to-do tip at a time.