I love to eat until I feel satisfied, never having to think about whether I have eaten too much nor need to stop before I’m full. There are two key concepts that I follow to be able to do this while still remaining trim. Adhering to these tenets allows me to trust that my hunger signals will shut off at the appropriate times without the need to restrict what I eat based on what I think is enough. The first is calorie density and the second is what we have coined “3-phase eating.” The goal of this article is to get a better grasp on the latter concept, 3-phase eating. For more information on calorie density, stay tuned for our next newsletter or get a head start by reading about it in The Whole Foods Diet.
3-phase eating is a relatively simple concept. Eat the vegetable or fruit dishes first, the starchy vegetable or grain dishes second, and then enjoy anything else you wish to include third. This ensures you will eat the more nutritious foods first, allowing you to fill up on the healthier choices and leaving less room for the unhealthier ones.
The most important thing we are doing here is adding instead of eliminating; make sure you ADD in your whole foods to every meal (your fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains). And, make sure you eat these foods before indulging in more fatty, plant-based dishes, animal products, or even highly processed foods (if you haven’t yet completely removed these things from your diet).
Some of our patients like to think about the first course as their “weight loss medicine or multivitamin” consisting of your vegetables (or fruit for breakfast). Your goal should be to have one big bowl of these foods; they can be raw, steamed, sautéed in an oil-free sauce, etc. Some examples include a big bowl of fresh berries with breakfast, a hearty vegetable soup with lunch, and a huge salad or bowl of sautéed veggies with dinner. This course should NEVER be skipped, as it is very low in calorie density (and therefore high in nutrient density) providing lots of fiber and water to help stretch your stomach towards satiety.
The second course is your “energizer and filler” and incorporates whole foods (foods that are not manipulated or highly processed). This course is important to ensure you have enough energy to get you to your next meal all while minimizing cravings along the way. These types of foods are higher in calorie density than course one but still low enough to satisfy you while maximizing nutrition. Foods included in course two are: brown rice, potatoes, corn, oats, quinoa, bulgur, squash, legumes, etc. For example: brown rice and beans; potatoes and salsa; a quinoa salad with corn, green onions, and currants. The combinations are limited only by your imagination. Again, remember you want to have a decent sized bowl of these foods prior to moving on to course three. In order to succeed long-term, you MUST include this second course. Those people afraid of “carbs” will never be successful long term until they conquer that fear and embrace these healthy carbs as an essential part of their diet.
The third course is optional and is where you could consume your discretionary foods, including any of the more processed and/or more fatty plant foods. These include: whole-grain breads or pastas, corn tortillas, whole-grain chips or crackers, non-dairy milks, lasagna, pizza, burritos/enchiladas, etc. This course is optional, as filling up on courses one and two would suffice. However, if course three is eaten, it should be a much smaller portion of your overall meal. The beauty is that if you incorporate this 3-course or 3-phase meal plan, the third course will naturally be smaller because you will not be as hungry, having already consumed generous portions of courses one and two. “Richer” plant foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, or soy and unprocessed animal foods (if you choose to include them) should be included in this category as well and when used should be a “seasoning” to your meal rather than a main part of the dish. For example, you can sprinkle nuts on your vegetable noodle dish (but don’t eat a bowl of nuts), you can add some guacamole to your enchilada (but don’t just eat a bowl of avocados), or you can add a couple ounces of chicken to your whole grain pasta (but don’t sit down to an entire bird).
Although this may seem like a hassle at the beginning, it is a very important step in learning this new language of optimum health. For those of you that would be helped by a gimmick, find one that you can adhere to. For example, the broccoli and sweet potato diet, the cauliflower and quinoa diet, the greens, beans, and brown rice diet, etc. In other words, no matter what you choose to eat, promise yourself that you will have a bowl of each of these foods before EVERY meal (and hold yourself accountable for doing so). This is obviously not necessary, but it does help to retrain your approach to eating so that you will no longer be having just pizza for dinner. Rather, you will be having broccoli and sweet potatoes (or whatever your gimmick happens to be) AND THEN a slice of pizza for dinner. Notice how this method doesn’t tell you that you can’t have a slice of pizza rather it requires that you first eat courses 1 and 2 before you have your 3rd “course” of a slice of pizza.
Once eating this way becomes second nature, you can put all the food onto one plate and eat everything altogether rather than breaking it up into three distinct courses. The reason for not doing this at the beginning is because most people who have broccoli, rice, and dumplings on their plate will eat the dumplings first, the rice next, and then if they feel like it, might nibble at the broccoli (although by that time, for most people, dessert will be calling their name and will never fail to look more appetizing than broccoli!) So, do yourself a favor and begin your retraining by mindfully having 3 courses. This is analogous to learning a new dance; you begin one step at a time, and when you have mastered the individual steps, you put the dance together. Note that you may add oil-free sauces to enhance the taste of any course, just be sure to use these sauces as seasonings and not drinks or soups!
Finally, it is important to note that the portion of phase three should be smaller than phase two, and phase two should be the same size or smaller than phase one. Also, should you want more of phase three, then you must first go back around and have another portion of phase one and phase two first. This way, if you wind up eating two servings of phase three then you must have also consumed two bowls of phases one and two.
If you follow these rules you will see how quickly you fill up on healthy foods without depriving yourself of other foods you want to enjoy. In other words, you can have your health and eat your cake too!