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The Five-Meal Plan for Health and Fitness

Why eating smaller meals (more often) is healthier -- plus, a delicious recipe for Tuscan chicken soup.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

You’d think that for a chef, eating frequent meals wouldn’t be an issue. Yes, I understand the concept: Five small meals a day takes the edge off your appetite, evens out blood sugar levels, and keeps your energy steady. But I confess: I don’t always eat this way. Although my fitness trainer encourages me to eat healthy food every few hours, my meals usually look like this: coffee, a bit more coffee, lunch at 3 p.m., dinner at 9 p.m. Then I start over again the next morning.

Recently, I decided to try to change this bad habit. Here’s what I learned:

Plan ahead. Five meals a day equals breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. To do this right, you need to plan what you’ll eat every day for each “meal.” And you need to schedule eating every two to three hours.

Stock up. If you don’t have healthy food on hand, you’re going to grab whatever is closest, so before you try a five-meal-a-day program, stock up on good food: veggies, fruit, complex carbs, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Go for taste. Choose snack foods that will sustain you and taste good. Think healthy and satisfying.

Whip up a smoothie: Blend fruit, milk, yogurt, and a little honey for a sweet, filling snack packed with vitamins, fiber, protein, and calcium.

Combine carbs and protein to stay full longer. Think whole wheat toast with peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg, whole grain pasta with olive oil and cheese, or oatmeal with fruit, milk, and honey. Or make yourself a big pot of healthy soup (like my Tuscan chicken soup) to heat up for lunches or snacks.

Healthy Recipe: Tuscan Chicken Soup

Makes six servings.

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp chili flakes

1 tbsp extra virgin
olive oil

8 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

1 14.5-oz can of Italian plum tomatoes, crushed

2 halves or 1 full boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium Yukon Gold potato, diced

1 can no-salt Italian white beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans, drained and rinsed (about 1½ cups)

2 to 3 stalks red chard, cut into 1-inch pieces, tough ribs removed

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 ribs celery, diced

3 tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

1. In a large pot on medium heat, sauté garlic and chili flakes in olive oil.

2. Add broth and tomatoes, and stir.

3. Add chicken. After about five minutes, add potato and gently boil about 15 minutes.

4. Add beans, chard, carrots, and celery, and simmer a few more minutes. Don’t overcook.

5. Ladle soup into warm bowls. Top with parsley, Parmesan, and salt and pepper.

 

Per serving: 270 calories, 23 g protein, 34 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 24 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 321 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

Reviewed on February 01, 2012

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