Timing – When to Eat Foods

by Penny Hammond on September 6, 2009

in Food choice reasons

Some people will only eat certain types of food at certain times of the day; others will wait a prescribed amount of time between eating one type of food and another; and some people will eat or avoid foods on particular days of the week, times of the year, or holidays, or their eating habits might depend on health conditions.

There are social expectations for the timing of eating foods. Most Westerners won’t eat spicy foods for breakfast, although that’s normal in India and some other countries. People are expected to eat dessert at the end of a meal, not at the beginning.

Combining diets, based on the Hay Diet from the 1920s, suggest that you should eat fruits in the morning and nothing else for 1/2 hour so the fruit can work its way through the digestive system without getting clogged up by other types of food and then fermenting. They also suggest having proteins and carbohydrates in separate meals, with a space in between. Other diets suggest eating carbohydrates in the morning, or proteins in the morning, having a large meal only in the middle of the day, having a large meal late at night, eating carbohydrates at night… there are lots of different recommendations from different authorities that can’t all be followed at the same time.

A number of religions have fasts, often in the spring when winter supplies are running out and leafy green vegetables are first available again after winter. For Eastern Orthodox Christians, the period of Lent may be a time when they have to avoid many foods – their diet becomes almost vegan. They also have numerous other fast days and periods throughout the year. Western Christians also restrict food during Lent, but the restictions are less comprehensive.

Ramadan, the major religious holiday for Muslims, is at a different time each year. Nothing may pass the lips during daylight hours, and there is feasting at night. Some Hindu festivals involve fasting as well as feasting. Jewish fasts and food-related holidays include Sabbath, every Saturday, during which you are supposed to eat three meals, and the bread called challah is usually eaten. During Pesach (passover) in the springtime, no leavened (risen) bread may be eaten. Yom Kippur is a fast day, people eat fried foods on Chanukah, and dairy is eaten on Shavuot. This is an extremely brief description for a very complex set of food-related holidays!

According to the Jewish laws of Kosher, you shouldn’t combine meat and milk. Eastern European Jews may wait 6 hours after eating meat before having milk, Germans 3 hours, and some Dutch Jews may wait 1 hour. Between eating dairy and meat, they rinse their mouths and eat a solid food like bread – there may be more rinsing and chewing involved if the milk food tends to stick in your mouth.

People who want to eat seasonally might only eat fruits and vegetables at the time of the year when they could be harvested in their local area – no tomatoes or peaches in the middle of winter, unless they’ve been preserved.

Sometimes people have to time eating for health reasons. They might not eat anything for a certain number of hours before an operation. They may have to eat when taking a medication that has to be eaten at the same time every day. Diabetics taking insulin have to control what they eat and when, so their blood sugar can stay level. Pregnant women may avoid certain foods during pregnancy when they are immunocompromised, and then start eating them again after they give birth.

Are there any foods you eat or avoid at certain times?

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