If you’ve read the blog post on Comfort Eating without Weight Gain you’ll have found out about the importance of eating a predominantly plant food based diet if you want to avoid weight gain and many other health problems. Here we’ll look at research that shows that it’s not just what you eat but the order in which you eat it that can make a difference to blood sugar control, appetite and weight.
Before we look at the theory behind meal sequencing it cannot be over-stated that calorie intake and overall nutritional balance are critically important when it comes to managing weight and health.
What’s the Magic Meal Sequence?
Meal sequencing refers to the order in which the macronutrients in a meal are eaten. Macronutrients are protein, fats and carbohydrates, as opposed to micro-nutrients which are vitamins and mineral.
It is suggested that it may be beneficial to eat protein and/or fat before eating carbohydrates. This promotes the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) from the gut as well as improving secretions of insulin and glucagon and delaying gastric emptying. GLP-1 suppresses the appetite by acting on the hypothalamus via the vagus nerve (1). The delayed gastric emptying means you feel full for longer
That said, eating foods rich in saturated fat from animal products, before carbohydrate increases secretions of GLP-1 as well as another chemical that promotes energy storage in fat tissue and may lead to weight gain in the long term.
Don’t Forget the Fibre
Another useful thing to know is that dietary fibre intake before carbohydrate intake significantly reduces postprandial glucose levels and may help with weight loss even though it doesn’t raise GLP-1.
Fibre, Protein and Fat Together
So, to maximise the benefits to blood sugar and to avoid weight gain try eating a combination of fibre with protein and/or fat before eating carbohydrates (1). This is a useful and practical strategy for anyone with blood sugar problems, type 2 diabetes or a tendency to gain weight.
An easy way to do this is to eat a small handful of nuts or seeds before a meal. Nuts and seeds contain protein, fibre and beneficial fats and have been shown to have many beneficial effects on health, weight and appetite. The meal you go on to eat can still contain protein, fat and fibre as well as carbohydrates.
You might also be interested in the blog post on When to Eat which contains more easy tips on eating for health without deprivation.
1. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 19;12(9):E2502. A Review of Recent Findings on Meal Sequence: An Attractive Dietary Approach to Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes. Kubota S et al.