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Healthy Bites: Eat meals and snacks every 5-6 hours

Focused on Health - February 2013

by Adelina Espat

Take on this challenge in the Healthy Bites series. Ella Forel did it. And, so can you!

Can’t fit three balanced meals into your busy day? Then, this is the challenge for you.

meals healthy“You miss out on vital nutrients when you skip meals,” says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson and the Healthy Bites challenge coach. “Your body needs food every five to six hours to function properly.”

Eating every few hours refuels your body and puts you in better shape to fight off diseases like cancer. It also helps keep your blood sugar and metabolism at healthy levels.

Eat a healthy snack

“Do you go without food for longer than six hours? Eat a healthy snack. It’ll tide you over until your next meal,” Mary Ellen says. “It’s also okay to eat a small snack if you get hungry in-between meals.”

A healthy snack includes two things:

  1. Unrefined carbohydrate, like fruit or whole grain crackers
  2. Protein, like peanut butter or low-fat cheese

Pairing these two together will help you stay full longer and keep you energized.

READ ALSO: Get healthy snack tips

Meet Ella, our Healthy Bites challenge champ

snack ella“I take ballroom dancing classes and see women in these classes who are in their 60s and 70s,” says Ella Forel. “They still have a lot of vitality – I want that to be me.” 

A former yoga instructor, 63 year-old Ella describes herself as “overweight and out-of-shape.”

“As I’ve gotten older, eating healthy and staying at a healthy weight require more effort,” Ella says. “I joined the Healthy Bites challenge because I want to relearn how to eat right and get back in shape.”

Ella takes the challenge

“When I first met Ella, I asked her to tell me what she typically eats in a day,” Mary Ellen says. “I learned that she often skips dinner.  So, I instantly paired her with this challenge.”

Because Ella lives alone, she rarely cooks. “After a long, stressful day at work, the last I thing I want to do is go home and cook,” Ella says. “When I do eat dinner, I’ll have a few marshmallows or a bowl of cereal.”

meal salad“I advised Ella to make time for healthy meals,” says Mary Ellen. “Skipping meals might seem like a quick and easy way to lose weight. But starving your body of essential calories can actually lead to weight gain over time.”

What worked for Ella

“I’ve always tried to eat healthy,” Ella says. “So, I was surprised by how difficult this challenge was for me – especially when I got busy at home and in my personal life. It made it hard to stay focused.”

Ella offers this advice:

  • Get support: “On days when I did complete the challenge, I noticed that talking to my support network was most helpful. They gave me the encouragement I needed to make sure I didn’t skip meals.”
  • Keep a food journal: “Keeping a journal on my desk every day helped. I enjoyed breaking down my meals and looking specifically at what I was eating day-to-day. It made me feel better and more accountable.”
  • Plan ahead: “Planning ahead also helps. On good days, I’d decide at the beginning of the day what meals and snacks I’d have for the rest of the day.”
  • Make healthy snacks: “Bring healthy snacks to work. Just be careful with snacking – you don’t want to take in too many calories. You also shouldn’t eat a snack too close to your next meal. For example, snacking late in the day made me not hungry for dinner.”

READ ALSO: Print out our meal and snack journal

“I still struggle with eating at regular times throughout the day,” Ella says. “But, I’m learning to listen to my body so that I’ll eat when I’m hungry and not when I’m stressed.”

Hungry for a healthy snack? Try these snack tips, and you too can be a Healthy Bites champ!

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