The right stuff: Three meals spread throughout the day provide your body with essential energy and nutrients. *Photos supplied
The right stuff: Three meals spread throughout the day provide your body with essential energy and nutrients. *Photos supplied

You’ve probably heard it’s important to eat regularly and not skip meals, but you may not understand why.

Three meals spread throughout the day provide your body with essential energy and nutrients and help keep you focused and less irritable.

Spreading meals through the day also helps with the efficient digestion and absorption of foods and maintains stable blood sugar levels.

Breakfast

Breakfast literally means breaking the fast and replacing the energy used while you were asleep.

Many people skip breakfast and consequently may be missing out on essential nutrients such as iron, folic acid, calcium and fibre.

Lack of iron can lead to feelings of weakness, tiredness and lethargy, while lack of folic acid can affect mood and increase the risk of depression.

Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight and are able to lose weight more successfully than those who skip breakfast.

This may be due to the reduced likelihood of consuming less healthy snacks at mid-morning.

Breakfast eaters also tend to have more balanced diets and have a reduced risk of some diseases.

People who eat breakfast perform better mentally, have better concentration and experience a better mood in the mornings.

Breakfast should contain a wholegrain starch (wholegrain cereals or wholegrain toast are great for this), a lean protein or low fat dairy/calcium rich food and two servings of fruits.

Lunch

The lunchtime meal is necessary to top up the energy provided at breakfast, as this will nearly be depleted by mid-day.

Most people use the majority of their energy in the daytime hours, between breakfast and dinner, so it is important to provide your body with the fuel it needs.

If lunch is missed, you may feel tired, weak and irritable in the afternoons and you may reach for unhealthy snack foods to refuel, instead of the balanced lunch you should have eaten. Lunch should contain a wholegrain starch, a lean protein and two servings of fruits, vegetables or salad to ensure a good balance of nutrients are consumed.

Dinner

The evening meal is our opportunity to make sure our body has received the right balance of nutrition through the day.

We need to prepare for the overnight fast and provide the body with all it needs to repair and cleanse while we sleep.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide essential nutrients and also fibre to keep things moving through your intestines overnight.

Protein will be utilized by the body to repair any damage to muscles, skin and tissues which occurred during the day.

A small portion of whole-grain starch is also required to provide energy for your body to do all this work overnight.

Excess starches and fats will not be used for energy overnight so it is important to watch portion sizes and to keep your evening meals low in fat to prevent weight gain.

Skipping meals

Many people believe that skipping meals will help them to lose weight.

In fact, people who skip meals are more likely to reach for foods that are high in calories, fats and sugars, due to an increase in the level of the hormone that controls appetite.

These foods do not usually contain a good balance of nutrients and tend to contain more calories than the meal that was skipped, leading to weight gain in the long term.

If you repeatedly skip meals, your body begins to act like it is in a time of famine. The body utilizes all available energy stores which can make you feel weak and light headed.

The body activates its own defence mechanism and improves its caloric efficiency in order to protect and conserve its energy stores, which leads to a reduced metabolic rate.

In the long term this makes it harder for you to lose weight, if this is something you wish to do.