Lunch & Dinner! Important Meals for Permanent Weight Loss

Originally published: 01-31-14

Why It’s Never OK to Skip Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

We’ve all had those days. The days we’re too busy to, well, function. Between work, family and every other responsibility that makes up our lives, sometimes it seems impossible to make time to fit in a proper lunch and dinner. Many people have the mindset that it’s OK, or even better, to skip a meal or eat a meal substitute when trying to lose weight. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve been brainwashed by the weight-loss industry to think that in order to lose weight, we need to sharply cut calories.

Proper food is the basis of health, and health is the foundation for a properly functioning metabolism and healthy weight loss. You can’t skimp on a meal and you definitely can’t skip a meal. Last week I talked about why a healthy breakfast is an important start to the day and key to maintaining weight loss. Equally important are lunch and dinner, which keep the metabolism up and keep us from becoming famished.

Sharply cutting calories slows the metabolism because the body thinks famine is coming. Our bodies hold onto our fat mass, saving it for use as the fuel of last resort when food is not available and our other bodily energy stores have been exhausted. Calorie deprivation also causes intense hunger, leading us to eat impulsively and hastily. This usually results in our consumption of convenient fattening foods and/or a greater quantity of proper foods than our bodies actually need.

The ideal time to eat meals is always a topic of discussion, even among healthcare and nutrition professionals. Since we should be eating every 3-4 hours throughout the day from the time we wake up, there’s no need to place a specific lunch or dinnertime on the calendar. What we do need to focus on are the types of foods we’re putting on our plates.

Take a Lunch Break

Whenever possible, I avoid recommending portion restrictions to my patients because feeling full is an important part of maintaining weight loss. We never want to be so hungry that we make bad choices and grab fattening foods, such as starchy or sugary snacks. The key is finding the amount of food that satisfies us without making us feel stuffed. Lean proteins are great for maintaining that satisfied feeling for a long period of time. Typically, women will be satisfied with 3-6 ounces of protein per meal, men with 4-8 ounces. Those are ballpark figures and not strict requirements.

Good protein choices include any type of poultry and fish, including more convenient sources like canned tuna or salmon. Lunch meats are also fine as long as they are low-sodium chicken, turkey, roast beef or ham. Avoid higher fat meats like corned beef, salami and tongue.Eggs are another important source of nutrients and a good source of protein. Make sure to eat the whole egg—both white and yolk. Egg whites and egg substitutes don’t have all the nutrients yolks contain. Low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese and fat-free plain Greek yogurt are also good sources of protein.

Vegetables should be the next focus at lunch.

The one rule I have for vegetables: eat as much and as many different kinds as you can! Vegetables are a critical source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and water that we can’t get from supplemental vitamin pills. The ingredients in multi-vitamin pills don’t absorb properly into the body’s cells the way nutrients in food do. Plus, swallowing vitamins in a pill form doesn’t make us feel full. More benefits of eating fresh vegetables!

I don’t discriminate between vegetables—all of them provide important nutrients and help us feel full. The only exceptions are potatoes and corn, which are starches and therefore, should be avoided. I also don’t discriminate between cooking styles, or, if you prefer, eating vegetables raw. In general, when preparing vegetables, steaming, roasting and grilling are better methods to use than sautéing, which typically requires more oil.

In restaurants, veggies are usually drowned in butter, oil or sauce, which adds on extra fat. Always order the sauce on the side, or completely leave it out. You’ll be surprised how flavorful and fresh cooked vegetables can taste on their own! The same rules apply to salad and salad dressing, which is generally high in fat. Order all dressings on the side. My patients follow the dip method: first stab the dressing with your fork, then stab the salad with that fork and take a bite. You’re still getting dressing on every bite, but using much less than if you poured it on top. The exceptions are calorie free dressings like Walden Farms and straight vinegar, which can both be poured directly onto the salad.

At lunch, adding a safe starch like one slice of low-carb bread or one low-carb wrap or pita can also help you feel satiated. Low-carb wrap and pita packages are labeled as such, so there’s no confusion as to which ones are acceptable. Low-carb breads typically contain 40-50 calories per slice. If you desire, add one cup of fresh fruit or a quarter-cup of dried fruit to your meal.

What’s for Dinner?

Just as lean proteins are necessary to feel satiated at lunch, they should also play a lead role on the dinner plate. Choices for dinner proteins include lean poultry (preferably white with no skin), fish and shellfish, and lean meats like filet mignon, trimmed veal chops, pork chops and lamb chops. Learn more about lean proteins HERE.

permanent weight loss
“Eggs—both whites and yolks—are also a good protein source for dinner.”

Most health-conscious people assume that meat should be well-trimmed of its fat. That’s true if the meat came from animals being fed corn and soy in a factory farm. Those foods cause unhealthy omega 6 fats to grow in the animals’ bodies, which aren’t good for us to eat. But, if you know that the beef you are consuming is grass fed, then having a cut that has fat on it isn’t always a bad thing. Grass-fed animals grow omega 3 fats, which are good for us to eat. Plus, the fat makes the food more filling and to some people, better tasting.

For vegetables, the same rules apply for dinner as we discussed for lunch. Be adventurous! Try as many different vegetables, both raw and cooked, as you can.

A lot of people like to eat starches at dinner because they think they’re the most filling. If we’re eating enough protein, we don’t have to eat any starches for dinner. Avoid breads, potatoes, pasta, rice and corn. Even sweet potatoes, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice are too starchy for healthy weight loss purposes.

Each time you sit down for a meal, try to focus less on how much you’re eating and more on what you’re eating. Take your time and enjoy each bite. Then, stop eating when you start to feel full.

Dean Sloan, MD

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