Use this flexible structure to find balance with food

Use this flexible structure to find balance with food

(Dean Drobot, Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s very easy in our current nutrition culture to be tempted by extremes.

While there are many people with legitimate health concerns around blood sugar, cholesterol, digestion, sleep and heart health among others, I’ve found this to be true: Those who are consistent with the basics can manage their conditions with much more ease.

One of the most important basics of nutrition is to eat regular, balanced meals using the following flexible structure.

Anticipate hunger every two to four hours, depending on the size of your last meal or snack. A meal will likely keep you full for close to three to four hours, while a snack will probably be closer to two hours. Choose three to five food groups for meals and two to three food groups for snacks.

Think through a typical day, starting with breakfast. What time do you usually get hungry? From there, think about what time to anticipate being hungry for lunch. If you’re going longer than three or four hours between breakfast and lunch, you may want to plan for a snack. And so on throughout the day.

As you implement this flexible structure, here are some benefits you may begin to see:

Reliable hunger and fullness cues

If eating patterns are haphazard or chaotic, your hunger and fullness cues will feel the same. That makes it difficult to gauge if you are meeting your needs adequately and to respond in a way that effectively helps you support blood sugar levels and digestive rhythms.

Consistent self-care

Taking breaks to fuel your body serves as a great reminder of your need for regular self-care. Meals are a time to relax, take a break and get healthy nourishment and satisfaction from food. You can then get back to the game of life feeling fueled and ready with increased productivity.

Avoiding extremes

Skipping meals and getting overly hungry will likely lead to overeating, which then perpetuates the cycle. Instead of restriction or chaos, you can feel more intentional about how often and how much you eat.

Finding balance

It’s quite possible that diets or food rules can leave you confused about what to eat, given that many diets have lists of “good” and “bad” foods. This flexible structure will allow for all foods, balanced in a way that will help you feel well and avoid a diet mentality.

It's important to validate any concerns you have about your health. I'm certain that attention to meal timing and meal balance will help you address those concerns.

Emily Fonnesbeck

About the Author: Emily Fonnesbeck

Emily is a Registered Dietitian and president of Emily Fonnesbeck Nutrition Consulting. Her nutrition passion lies in helping people make peace with food. Email:

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