Health & Fitness

Would you consider making a small effort to achieve any one of these benefits?:

  • Sleep better.
  • Forget about hiatal hernia heartburn.
  • Get up and face the morning more eagerly.
  • Have more energy all day.
  • Slay the post-lunch Sleep Monster.
  • Gain more evening time for work or play.
  • Lose a little weight.
  • Save cooking time, especially on hectic weekdays.
  • Add extra flavor to your foods.
  • Eat more family meals together.

Then how about achieving all of them ... with one effortless change in your routine?!

This change does not alter your diet or exercise. It's exceptionally well-suited to singles and couples, and will work for many families. Health experts and many family cooks endorse it. It's the proverbial free lunch! You'll wonder why you hadn't thought of it sooner, and you'll marvel at its simplicity.

First, a preparatory step that cuts weekly cooking time dramatically: cook extra quantities and use the refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and/or oven in the proper sequence for subsequent meals. Refrigerate or freeze the extra meals in individual meal portions -- the multiple-dish meals in divided TV-dinner-style plates and the casseroles/ enchiladas/ spaghetti/ etc. in plastic bags or freezer-to-microwave containers. Admit it: you already have a stack of TV dinner plates in the cupboard.

What was once called "leftovers" has become "superior planning". Charla and Kurt presented many tips for freezing meals in their March article, "Cooking Ahead: Freezing Meals".

Home-made TV dinners sound banal, but think about it: home cooking, with all your favorite foods and flavors, freshly nuked, with no further assembly required. Just grab one out of the fridge or freezer, nuke it, go do three other things until you hear the beeps, and eat. It worked for Pavlov's dogs, didn't it?

This obviously saves cooking time, and often enhances a meal's flavor. Haven't you noticed that many homemade dishes like stews, sauces, casseroles, and lasagna taste better the next day, after their complex flavors have had time to blend?

But how do we achieve the rest of the benefits? Simple: Just switch breakfast and supper.

Stunned? Think about it. Supper in the morning (wasn't there a song about that in the 60s?) provides energy and promotes alertness well past lunch time. Do you think your morning toast and coffee do that? Nope; it's just the coffee -- you're running on drugs 'til lunch!

The benefits of supper in the morning come from much more than just eating more food. The protein and fats inherent in most suppers slow down digestion so our meal provides energy over a longer period, generate brain chemicals that help us stay alert, and can cause heartburn if we lie down too soon. And do you know how sumo wrestlers get so huge? By eating and going to bed often. It's very effective, because fat cells hoard calories we aren't using and begrudge their release. If we eat supper in the morning, we burn it off banging our head against the wall at work rather than storing it in fat cells as we sleep or channel surf.

Does supper still sound like a good evening meal?

Breakfast in the evening has its own merits, too. Most breakfasts are primarily carbohydrates, which aid sleep via brain chemistry -- the last thing we need at the office, but great at night. And the minimal fat and protein in an evening breakfast allow quicker digestion so we don't awaken at 3:AM feeling like we just won a pepperoni pizza eating contest.

If your present breakfast is fatty -- bacon, sausage, slabs of butter or margarine -- double shame on you. It's harmful no matter when you eat it, and will diminish the benefits of switching supper and breakfast. An evening meal of some combination of hot or cold cereal, fruit, toast'n'jam, occasional eggs, corn bread, grits (put green chiles in 'em!), low-fat muffins, pancakes, French toast, milk, juice -- all the great stuff you don't take time for in the mornings -- will help you sleep. My favorite evening meal is half a box of some quality cereal, buried in fruit, with Grape Nuts for extra crunch, and 1% milk [the skim stuff is for purists, the gravely ill, and masochists. 8<)]. Taste, crunch, and fiber are prerequisites for my cereal, and most of them taste fine ... with enough sugar. But then I burn calories off like a blast furnace; your mileage may vary.

How are we doing on the remaining benefits?

  • Hiatal hernia patients sleep better because the heartburn is history.
  • We all wake up rested and hungry because that carbo supper is long gone and

    we slept better without a stomach full of fat and protein.

  • Families can eat more "suppers" as a family rather than as dive bombers

    strafing the kitchen, because they don't have 16 activities competing with it. And it's that or starve 'til noon, so they're motivated.

  • We're more alert at the office because that big morning meal provides a

    timed release of energy for many hours. (I went from getting sleepy after lunch every day to never again, with no change in my lunch, on the first day I ate supper for breakfast.)

  • Some people may lose some excess weight, because we're burning that main

    meal off slaying dragons rather than force feeding our fat cells just before hitting the sack or the couch.

Your evenings reap a huge benefit. Kids have a game and a recital and a scout meeting that evening? Or want to play golf, catch a movie, or go shopping while the rest of the world is cooking and eating supper? Easy -- eat a quick and easy breakfast at 5:30 PM and you're outta there before the crowd. Or get an even earlier jump on your newly free evenings by letting "supper" wait until after those nine holes, that latest box-office hit (for $4.00 -- with no crowds), or your shopping, because eating a late carbo meal won't keep you awake.

This almost converts your evenings into mini-weekends, especially for the cook! Yet no one has to miss an evening meal because of diverse schedules. You might even destroy a pile of pancakes together in some 20-minute segment.

And no one has to spend the whole day wondering if they're going to be facing a broccoli casserole that night.