For the longest time, there has been a lot of confusion on what should be the ideal time to have most of your food or the heaviest meal of the day.
There are those that think that you must make sure breakfast is the most substantial meal since that is the time your body needs fuelling and a satiating breakfast will give you that energy to kick-start your day. Some experts believe that you should split your meals into smaller meals and keep eating them in regular intervals. But most experts agree that you should keep your dinner light. As the day progresses, your metabolism takes a dip, it becomes increasingly tough to digest what you eat; therefore, it is a wise idea to reduce portion size during the evening.
Ayurveda, also recommends eating light later in the day and have most of your calorie intake during your lunch. In other words, your lunch should ideally be the biggest meal of your day. Here’s why.
Most of Ayurveda’s eating principles revolve around digestion. Digestion is so intimately tied with so many aspects of your overall health and is uniquely dependent upon your dosha. You may be really happy to hear that scales, calories, and the food pyramid does not exist in Ayurveda. Instead, we focus on when to eat, how to eat, and how we feel after eating.
Unhealthy digestion is said to cause weight gain, constipation, bloating, acidity gas, and bloating and burping. The body’s internal fire (metabolism) is called our agni and our agni is at its strongest during lunchtime. Your body is wired according to the movement of the sun and your digestive agni is naturally high when the sun is the strongest. Therefore, as the sun goes down, you should also gradually reduce your heavy food intake.
Here is where we tend to go wrong:
- We skip breakfast or have a cold, raw smoothie, or yogurt with fruit. That fire cannot burn if your agni is snuffed out with cold foods.
- We eat a light lunch like a salad, Your agni needs substantial fuel to get you through the rest of the day, and a small light salad – just doesn’t cut it as far as your digestion is concerned.
- Because lunch was not nutritious enough – you are starving by the time you get home. So you inhale a big dinner, or snack while you make dinner and you have your biggest meal of the day at around 7pm when your digestive fire is at its lowest and this could not be further from what is right for your digestion.
The problem with your largest meal at night and a shrinking metabolism or digestive fire – is the big dinner sits in your stomach undigested which makes it twice as hard for your agni. You then have breakfast the next morning on top of that undigested food which then creates problems like gas and bloating, constipation, sluggish digestion, weight gain, and a sense of heaviness.
It is well documented that our daily rhythms have specific times where they are most effective. This is the field of chronobiology working with your circadian rhythms) and in Ayurveda your dinacharya or daily routine. One of the most important things we can learn from chronobiology is that while the majority of us may live an urban, gleamingly modern lifestyle, we cannot really separate ourselves from the ancient, more agrarian rhythms we evolved to over countless generations. Not if we hope to achieve and maintain optimal health and fitness, that is. These rhythms are encoded in us on the most basic levels, making up the very mechanics of how our bodies work, including how we metabolize the food we eat into the energy that fuels all bodily processes.
Consuming heavy meals later in the day not only hampers digestion, but it works against your natural rhythms – creating problems with sleep and also results in toxin overload, due to which you wake up tired the next day.
So, let’s do lunch!
There are plenty of ways you can make your lunch interesting – we have shared with you one of our favorite lunches from our Spring Meal Plan that we have modified for each dosha.
Rice Pilaf with Mint Coconut Sauce
1 cup basmati rice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 whole cloves
3 green or white cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk (about 1 3/4 cups)
About 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
Mint Coconut Sauce
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup mint leaves
Three 1/4-inch slices of fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 jalapeño, seeded
1 tablespoon cilantro
Directions for the Sauce
In a blender, combine the coconut milk, mint leaves, ginger, garlic, lime juice, jalapeno, and cilantro and puree until smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Directions for the Meal
Make the pilaf. Place the rice in a bowl and add water to cover. Swirl the water around with a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon for about 20 seconds. Strain and discard the water. Set the rice aside.
Heat the coconut oil in a large, deep skillet with a lid until hot. Add the cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cumin and heat, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil; cook over medium heat until the rice grains begin to turn white, about 1 minute.
Pour the coconut milk into a large measuring cup and whisk in enough water to measure 2 cups. Add the coconut milk–water mixture to the rice and bring to a boil. Add the salt and stir once, thoroughly. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the coconut milk has been absorbed and the rice grains are separated, about 12 minutes. Do not stir. Remove from the heat. Cover and let stand, without stirring, for 10 minutes.
Make the Mint Coconut Sauce. Spoon the pilaf into a serving dish and drizzle the Mint Coconut Sauce on top.
Servings Size: 2-4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
IF YOU ARE SHARING WITH A
Pitta | Perfect meal for them too when you remove the pepper.
Kapha | Use soy instead of coconut milk.
Vata/Pitta | They can enjoy this meal as is!
Vata/Kapha | Switch out the coconut milk in the rice for soy or goat milk.
Pitta/Kapha | Substitute soy milk for coconut milk in the sauce and remove the pepper.
By changing your eating habits and eating the right foods at the right time, you can help your body to be much more efficient. Understanding the principles of chronobiology which mirrors the principles of Ayurveda; making lunch your biggest meal balances agni which is the root of a healthy life full of vitality.
Check out our meal plan that is right for your dosha, the season and the time of day while you are here.