Kristen Yarker

What’s the Best Time to Eat?

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Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD brings the JOY of healthy eating to adults and picky kids. And, powers us to LOVE our bodies. Because food is love. A registered dietitian, Kristen has 20+ years of experience in nutrition helping find the sweet spot where eating is healthy for your body without giving up enjoying food’s pleasure. Kristen liberates people from the diet/ guilt cycle so that they adopt healthy eating habits that actually stick.

Eating healthfully involves more than what you choose to eat. It also includes when you choose to eat. Because even if you choose the right things, eating them at the wrong time can set you up for cravings that will drive you to eat things you will be upset at yourself for eating. Determining when to eat doesn’t involve memorizing times on the clock that are universal rules for everyone. In other words, there is no “best time” to eat. Here’s how to create a plan to eat at the right times that’s unique to you.

Eat Within 1 Hour Of Waking Up 

clockeatingWhile I don’t agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, breakfast is a very important meal of the day. Eating within an hour of waking up can help prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low. While you sleep, your body processes slow down. When you wake up, they get revving up again. You want to do the namesake for this meal – break the fast – the overnight fast that is. Eating a healthy meal within an hour of waking up can help prevent cravings for pastries mid-morning as well as rebound cravings mid-afternoon and at night. Choose a breakfast that will keep your blood sugar stable all morning. Pick:

  • Fibre-rich foods such as real whole grains, vegetables or fruit.
  • Protein-rich foods such as nuts and seeds (and their butters), eggs, or leftover fish or meat from the night before.
  • Minimal added sugar. Even seemingly healthy breakfast cereals can have added sugar. Read labels closely to find hidden sugar, such as sugar-sweetened dried fruit.

 A common objection to this idea is that people say they’re not hungry in the morning. Usually it’s people who aren’t well connected to their body’s signals of hunger and fullness who tell me this. A smoothie or protein shake can help you achieve eating within an hour without needing much appetite.

Another objection is that you’re too busy to eat breakfast. Overnight oats or a smoothie/ protein shake can be good solutions when you’re in a rush. Or, think outside the box. Warm up last night’s leftovers or make a sandwich the night before and eat it in the morning.

Eat About Every 4 Hours

It takes humans about 4 hours to digest a meal and build an appetite again. Going longer than 4 hours between meals and snacks, including skipping meals, sets you up with the physiological drive to crave high fat, high sugar, high salt, processed foods. Often we get mad at ourselves for going through the drive-through or stopping at the convenience store, telling ourselves that we don’t have the willpower to eat well. But when you’ve gone longer than 4 hours without eating, your body craves these things. The solution is not a matter of willpower. It’s a matter of planning

Create Your Unique Plan

So, while there isn’t a universal “best” time to eat for everyone. There is a “best” time to eat for you. Here’s how to create your plan so you hit all your best times. This is the exact same process that I do with my clients.

My Eating Plan

Step 1:

I wake up at ___________________ [insert time]


Step 2:

Breakfast ___________________ [insert 1 hour after you wake up]   


Lunch _______________________ [insert time]


Dinner _______________________ [insert time]


Step 3:

Is there more than 4 hours between breakfast and lunch?

If yes, add a morning snack.


Morning snack ____________________ [insert time]


Step 4:

Is there more than 4 hours between lunch and dinner?

If yes, add an afternoon snack.


Afternoon snack ___________________ [insert time]


Step 5:

Is there more than 4 hours between dinner and when you go to bed?

If yes, add an evening snack.


Evening snack ______________________ [insert time]


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