A ‘fourth meal’ to fill you up
Amber Dias dishes out the details on one of the hottest food trends of the season.
and dinner - three square meals a day, that’s what we’ve always been told we need to survive, and of course, stay healthy. But it’s safe to say our relationship with food goes far beyond that. What we eat, how we eat and when we eat are constantly changing, largely in sync with the way our lives evolve and the emergence of new trends in food. One such trend, spotlighted as one of the biggest of 2018, is the emergence of a fourth meal as part of our staple diet.
WHAT IS THE FOURTH MEAL? The concept of eating an additional meal, apart from the standard breakfast, lunch and dinner, is not a novel one. Be it brunch, elevenses, high tea or a late night snack, cultures across the globe have been digging into mid-meal delicacies for generations. But lately they have emerged as a staple requirement on par with traditional meals. It’s become ubiquitous, so much so, that college cafeterias have begun offering a fourth meal as part of their daily meal plan and restaurants, coffee shops, cafes et al have begun revamping their menus to meet the demand of light meals outside standard lunch or dinner hours. Even food delivery services have jumped on the wagon offering late night deliveries on demand. Euromonitor International, the global leader in market analysis, reported that consumers’ eating patterns have undergone fundamental changes, shifting from traditional family meals to a more fragmented and flexible eating style.
Adding to this, some nutritionists suggest that daily snacking between meals has increased to such an extent that the total calorie intake from snacks is equal to that of a standard meal and hence can also be regarded as a fourth meal.
CHASING THE CLOCK
Our lives are more fast-paced, impatient and ondemand than ever before. In a single day, we’re trying to squeeze in work, socializing, some family time and a quick workout and the energy to do it all has to come from somewhere. Simply put, the rising popularity and necessity of the fourth meal can be adhered to by simply adapting to our ever changing and extremely busy lifestyles. For instance, if your day starts with the sun, or before it in some cases, you might grab a quick bite and get on with your work. But by the time lunch rolls around, you would be exhausted. In comes the midmorning snack or brunch to keep you alert, fueled up and raring to go!
Similarly, those burning the midnight oil would need the fuel to do so, or if you plan to work out after work, a mid-afternoon snack like high tea is a good way to keep your energy levels up, so that you don’t lose momentum when you hit the gym.
A research study titled ‘How We Eat: The Changing Face Of Global Meal Times’ confirmed that people are moving away from a pattern of eating three fixed meals to eating at any time that is more convenient.
This trend is also being reflected in social outings. Getting together for brunch or coffee has become much easier than planning a lengthy lunch or dinner affair. TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT… With health awareness being at its peak at the moment, we have to ask, is eating a fourth meal healthy? The answer to that question, however, is up to you. Nutritionists and fitness experts agree that’s it’s not about when you eat but rather what you eat and how much. Research on eating habits reveal that most people, both men and women, get more than half their calories from alcoholic or sweetened beverages, savoury snacks like chips, candy or baked goodies like cakes and pastries - definitely not healthy in the long run.
Madhvi Bhatt Trivedi, Head of Nutrition & Scientific Affairs, Kelloggs India Private Limited, avers, “The classic three meals a day is losing sheen and eating smaller bites through the day is emerging as a strong trend. Simultaneously, people are
“The classic three meals a day is losing sheen and eating smaller bites through the day is emerging as a strong trend.” — Madhvi Bhatt Trivedi
becoming more health aware and conscious than ever before. Keeping these two diverse trends in mind, it becomes important to ensure that the meals had during the day are nourishing and light on the stomach, and at the same time tasty. In fact, snacking can be looked as an effective way to get the desired nutrients into your diet and prevent overeating at mealtimes.”
She adds that on the global scale, even the extremely health conscious feel the need to power up between meals. She says, “It therefore becomes important to reach out to wholesome and nourishing snacks, especially in the evening - a time when many people slip up or lose their resolve to eat healthy. Having said that, main meals should remain sacrosanct. Breakfast provides solid nutrition to kick-start the day, and lunch and dinner help you power up through the day.”
Another important thing to keep in mind is portion control. The amount of calories consumed in a day needs to be constant, irrespective of how many meals you eat. Speaking healthwise, the idea of the fourth meal is to spread the intake of food through the day; this makes it easier to control body weight.
Eating healthy, doesn’t mean you can’t indulge every once in a while. Just find a balance, portion your meals properly and you can eat as many meals as you want - totally guilt-free!
This trend is also being reflected in social outings. Getting together for brunch or coffee has become much easier than planning a lengthy lunch or dinner affair.