Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, goes the old adage. And it's still good advice for the most efficient use of calories, according Gretchen Newmark, a registered dietitian with the Dairy Council of California.
Skipping breakfasts and eating large lunches or dinners, a common habit for people on the go, leads to poor use of calories and weight gain, said Newmark, a nutrition consultant in Santa Monica.
Between 1977 and 1983 the number of people who skip breakfast increased by 33%, according to Market Research Corp. of America.
"The body needs food to get going in the morning. Eating a large lunch after little or no breakfast is like running into a 30-degree hill in the middle of a race," Newmark said. "Performance is bound to suffer."
A big dinner at the end of the day does not give the body enough time to digest and burn off calories, which can be disastrous for the waistline, she said.
'Reverse the Order'
"The key is to reverse the order, and eat more calories the beginning of the day," Newmark said. "Most people find that an extra 15 minutes for breakfast actually saves time because they get more done in the mornings and don't have to worry about fixing big meals at night."
Nutritionists recommend balancing all meals with foods from the four basic food groups--milk, meats, vegetables/fruits and breads/cereals.
Newmark said balanced lunches can be planned to include foods that don't require a lot of preparation or can be made the night before.
Yogurt and cottage cheese can be kept in the refrigerator at home or at work and are ready to eat. Fruits are good as snacks or desserts, individually or mixed. Vegetables such as carrots, celery or broccoli are easy additions to a bag lunch. For breads and meats, the sandwich is a perfect combination of two food groups.
Dinners are best made with vegetables, moderate servings of meat (three ounces), cheeses, milk for a beverage and complex carbohydrates such as pasta. The latter digest easily and contribute fiber.
"Once you get adjusted to this new schedule, you will probably find that you are more productive during the day and more comfortable in the evening without an overstuffed stomach," Newmark said.