Salli Kosonen, who works as a nutritionist in the Wellbeing Services County of Ostrobothnia, says that it would be good for everyone to eat about five times a day.
– A good breakfast, two warm meals a day, i.e., lunch and dinner, as well as a mid-afternoon and evening snack. You can then modify the order of the meals according to when it suits you best, and the order can vary between days, says Kosonen.
For example, if you enjoy dinner late in the evening, you can eat a second snack in the early evening.
– The typical interval between meals is 3-4 hours. Usually, after that time, the blood sugar drops and you get hungry.
Kosonen adds that the feeling of hunger is also a matter of habit. People also get used to excessively long meal intervals.
– It’s easy to eat too much at once if you don’t eat often enough. Portion sizes remain reasonable when you eat more often and regularly, explains Kosonen.
Many reasons for mealtimes
Eating regularly helps you cope better at work, at school and in hobbies. The mealtime is not only a physical energy filling moment since it also has a social side.
– When blood sugar drops too much, you become tired and irritable and can’t concentrate. Mealtimes also bring a rhythm to the working day. Lunch and coffee breaks give you a moment to breathe and can contribute towards having a good mood.
Kosonen urges those who skip breakfast or lunch to think about their own value choices. What is important? Could you prioritise yourself and give yourself time to eat?
– I would start with small changes. Not everyone is a so-called morning person, but that is also simply a matter of habit. The body is smart and adapts little by little as long as progress is made in small steps. For example, you can start taking a small yogurt with you on your way to work, advises Kosonen.
Kosonen points out that breakfast is no more important than any other meal, but the overnight fast is long and the energy stores are empty after the night.
Remember the vegetables and watch out for hidden salt
The Nordic nutritional recommendations are being renewed, and within a few years the Finnish recommendations will probably be updated as well. However, the basics remain the same: regular eating, a varied and balanced diet that includes at least 500 grammes of vegetables, fruit and berries per day, as well as whole grains and fibre-rich food. Fish should be eaten 2–3 times a week and you should not eat more than 500 grammes per week of meat products.
The recommended salt intake is less than 5 grammes, i.e. less than a teaspoon per day. In Finland, people eat much more salt, which is associated with, among other things, cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure.
– In Finland, bread is one of the biggest sources of salt, and the types of bread on the market with a low salt content are very limited, laments Kosonen.
It would be good to eat as many vegetables, fruits and berries as possible. On the other hand, if, for example, a child only likes cucumber and tomato, then it is good to eat a lot of them. There is no difference in nutritional values between fresh and frozen vegetables.
– If the option is frozen vegetables or nothing, then frozen vegetables can be easily added to the food.
We must have a positive approach to food
Kosonen believes it is important for everyone to find their own way to eat healthily and regularly. Often people wonder what is wrong with their eating habits. Instead, you could think about what’s good about them, for example, do you eat lunch every day?
Eating should not become a performance issue that causes pressure and stress.
– Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult. All kinds of food are part of the diet, it’s more about the amounts and the whole. It is often said that when 80 percent of what you eat is healthy, you can eat whatever you want for the remaining 20 percent.
In Kosonen’s opinion, unnecessary restrictions in the diet should be avoided. It’s hard to limit and stick to a diet all the time. In the worst case, an eating disorder may develop.
– For example, there’s no need to feel guilty about eating pizza on Fridays. It’s a nice social activity, when you get a full stomach and energy to have fun in the evening.
A nutritionist knows that keeping food moments positive is not necessarily always easy. Some meals can be associated with the experience of loneliness, when there is no one to cook for or company at the dinner table.
– The risk of malnutrition among older people is accentuated, which then affects their ability to function.
Kosonen says that food cannot completely cure diseases, but good nutrition can promote recovery as part of a treatment.