Food for thought: Demystifying your dinner

  • Snigdha Ahuja, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 22, 2015 18:08 IST
Dinner is crucial because it is our last meal of the day, and the body goes into relaxation mode after that. (shutterstock)

What would you pick if you had to choose your last meal? Well, most of us would go for a big helping of fries, our favourite pizza, or even a big bowl of ice-cream. Coming back to real life, when it comes to the last meal of the day, many of us are in a fix. Is it imperative to eat dinner early? What can one have for a cheat meal? We asked experts to help us bust certain myths.

Is dinner the most important?

It is as essential as all meals, if not more. “Every meal is important, as eating on time regulates the basal metabolic rate, which helps the body to stay active. Dinner is crucial because it is our last meal of the day, and the body goes into relaxation mode after that. So, keep it easy-to-digest and light,” says nutritionist Preeti Seth. “Since the next meal will only be seven-eight hours later, dinner becomes important. It should provide essential nutrients for optimal bodily function and metabolic rate. It also keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels stable while you are resting,” says nutritionist Shilpa Mittal.

Read: How to eat out without piling on the calories

Is it true that dinner should always be early?

Early dinner rings worrisome for a lot of us thanks to a fast-paced lifestyle. “It’s okay to eat after dark. But if you eat a heavy dinner, you’re not as likely to get rid of those calories before you turn in. Eating too close to bedtime increases blood sugar and insulin, which causes you to have a hard time falling asleep. Therefore, the last meal should be the lightest of the day, and should be eaten at least three hours before going to sleep,” recommends fitness expert Kiran Sawhney. “Post-dinner desserts can send blood sugar soaring right before bed, and can lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps you feel relaxed. Waning levels can make it harder to fall asleep. A boost of energy from dinner can act as a short-lived stimulant, making you feel more awake after a meal. So, optimal time is important,” she adds.

Read: Can’t curb overeating? Blame it on the large-sized tableware

What kind of nutrition is mandatory for a healthy dinner?

“A balance of carbs, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals is vital. Dinner should be rich in fibre and complex carbs. Avoid heavy, oily and fried foods, farsan, desserts and sweets.” says Shilpa Mittal. Preeti Seth adds: “One should consume good quantity of salads. A light digestible high-fibre diet must be had to stay healthy.”

What if I get hungry again?

Midnight hunger pangs are a real thing, especially if you ate an early dinner. So what can one go for? “Popcorn, which is thought to be bad. But one serving is low in calories, has antioxidants, whole grains and fibre to keep you full. Also, yoghurt and almonds are good too,” says Kiran Sawhney. “Have milk at bedtime. One can also have fruits, almonds or walnuts. Cereals like muesli, wheat flakes are okay,” suggests Preeti.

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