By Pamela Redwine
Many Americans have moved away from “three square meals” a day. Instead, their series of mini-meals, called “grazing,” matches their on –the-go lifestyle. That’s okay – as long as they meet the nutrition goals for smart eating and active living. MyPyramid doesn’t advocate a single meal and snack pattern. Instead, it’s a guideline for what and how much to eat for the entire day or for several days. Eating five or six mini-meals can be as healthful as three meals a day.
Little meals – several small portions eaten throughout the day – are nothing new. Instead, they’re part of the traditional eating style in many places outside the United States. A variety of small portions of traditional Spanish dishes are served as “tapas.” In Greece, Turkey, and Egypt they’re called “mezze.” A little meal, or “spuntino,” in Italy might be a mini-pizza, grilled bread with tomatoes and cheese, or small skewers of meat and vegetables. And “dim sum,” which means “to do (or touch) the heart” in Chinese, is a savory snack of spring rolls, pot stickers, and steamed dumplings, to name a few.
Eating several mini-meals may have several benefits. Like traditional eating styles, mini-meals can contribute nutrient-rich food-group foods. For some people, especially those with small appetites, little meals may match their personal needs and lifestyles. Eating fewer calories more frequently may burn a few extra calories; eating and digesting food has a thermogenic, or calorie-burning, effect for a short time. Some researchers also say that spreading the same number of calories over four to six meals throughout the day, rather than at three meals, may result in somewhat lower blood cholesterol levels, too. But these findings aren’t conclusive.
Tips for Healthful Grazing
· Total it up. To avoid overeating, yet still satisfy your appetite, pay attention to your small helpings and to the overall amount you eat in all your mini-meals.
· Choose appetizer size portions in restaurants and at home. That’s about right for mini-meals.
· Use the power of MyPyramid to eat the right amount and food variety for you. Overgrazing can be your source of excess calories, added sugars, fats, especially saturated and trans fats, and sodium.
Recipe of the week
Nonstick cooking spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small eggplant (about 3/4 pound), peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 can (about 15 ounces) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
Baked tortilla wedges (optional)
1. Coat large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add oil, heat over medium heat until hot. Add eggplant, onion and jalapeno pepper, if desired; cook and stir 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
2. Stir in black-eyed peas, tomatoes with juice and cumin. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro.
3. Serve with tortilla wedges, if desired.
Makes 16 servings