Welcome back! We are now in part 3 of this blog series and have almost completed a full day of eating. Last time, we focused on creating a healthy lunch to sustain high energy levels throughout the day. Today I will provide some basic tips and recipes for dinner to maintain that energy overnight.
The ideal balance of food at dinner time will digest slowly and steadily throughout the night to maintain stable energy and insulin levels. The following dinner tips may be simple, but doing them will have significant positive effects on your overall health and diet:
1 - Make 75-80% of your dinner healthy protein and vegetables. By dinner time, most of your daily activities are completed so your body does not need the fast-acting carbs you consume during breakfast and lunch. Instead, we want to consume foods that will digest slowly overnight. This keeps insulin levels stable, which is one of the key factors in weight loss and maintenance. Protein and fat digest slower than carbs so fill your plate with lean meats and vegetables (see below for some meal ideas!). You do not need to cut out carbohydrates completely, but you should limit them to no more than 20-25% of your meal.
2 - Consume a large glass of water before dinner. Adequate hydration is an absolutely crucial yet highly under-utilized tool in the weight loss/maintenance journey. The body cannot properly build muscle or cut fat if it is not properly hydrated. Not only that, but many times when we think we are hungry, it is actually dehydration talking. Initial dehydration symptoms can seem very similar to hunger. Whenever you are feeling incredibly hungry, drink a glass of water to be sure you are properly hydrated. Consuming a large glass before dinner helps to fill you up to limit overeating as well as keep you hydrated overnight.
3 - Limit consumption of desserts. Fight that craving for a sweet treat! For most of us, cutting dessert out of our lives is unrealistic. I am aware of this and that is why it is important to plan out desserts. Instead of just eating that cookie whenever you see it, consume it following your workout. Not as a "reward" but because this is when sugar is best utilized. It is digested quicker at this time so will provide a quick boost of energy and not sit and ferment in your body. If you plan your treats out, you can utilize the sugar better and it won't have as much of an effect on weight. When you consume sugar before bed, the lack of activity will cause it to sit in the digestive tract longer and ferment (will discuss this more at a later date). It could also lead to restless sleep as it does provide high energy levels.
4 - Add variety to your dinner throughout the week. While "chicken, broccoli, and brown rice" is a healthy meal, if you eat it every day then your body will become too high on some vitamins/minerals while too low on others. Change up the protein and vegetables to ensure a healthy balance of the micronutrients (vitamins/minerals).
Some meal ideas are:
- Blackened salmon filet on quinoa bed with mixed vegetables on the side
- Spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs and vegetable tomato sauce
- Grilled chicken breast with broccoli and sweet potatoes on the side
- Squash, zucchini, and chicken sausage stir fry
- Black bean tacos with kale chips on the side
Try this fall favorite for a change in your normal routine:
Crock Pot Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables
2 c. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 c. baby red potatoes, halved if large
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
**If you like spicy food, try adding extra red pepper flakes!**
- In a large slow cooker, add Brussels sprouts and potatoes in an even layer and place chicken on top.
- In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, brown sugar, mustard, dried thyme, rosemary, and oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Pour marinade over chicken and vegetables. Scatter all over with garlic.
- Cover and cook on high until chicken is fall-apart tender, 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
Recipe from: http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a51434/slow-cooker-balsamic-chicken-recipe/
Now you know what an ideal day looks like for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but we are not quite done with this series yet! Next time, I will address how to snack appropriately with a main focus on pre- and post- workout snacks. Be on the look out for that later in the week!
Try out the balsamic chicken recipe and let us know what you think in the comments. Please visit our homepage for more information on our various programs and customized plans. and let us know if you have any questions!
Happy eating, all!