Perspectives on Food: A Middle Eastern Diet

Posted by Mohannad Aljawamis

The aroma of molten cheese and hot dough struck me as I walked towards the kitchen. It was my host sister heating up a slice of pizza, seemingly unconcerned with the clock reading 7 a.m. However, coming from Jordan where I lived until I was fifteen, I was perturbed.

The next few mornings did not come as a surprise, but I struggled to contain my confusion. Chinese food leftovers, steak and mashed potatoes all seemed to convey a fact about the American diet: time does not seem to put much constraint on the type or amount of food consumed.

This was strange for me, as the Middle Eastern diet I am accustomed to puts a special emphasis on time. Time is as crucial to maintaining a healthy diet as the ingredients of the food we put in our bodies. Hopefully, this piece can serve to provide some insight as to what about your diet needs to change in order for you to become a healthier person.

Time

It seems that there is a direct relationship between the importance of a meal and how late in the day it takes place. We know that dinner is a family activity that is given high priority and is regularly prepared in the home. Lunch is not given as much attention as it often interferes with work time. Breakfast is almost negligible because people tend to eat it separately at their convenience.

Understanding this, what aspects of time in a typical American diet are healthy? When the meals are served at a much earlier time, it allows for proper digestion of all meals and proper use of calories before bedtime.

What is unhealthy, then? The relationship explained above is. It may be important to consume a big dinner, especially after physical exercise and to help preventing late-night snacking, but neglecting lunch and breakfast are bad habits. Breakfast in particular is a critical meal that cannot be skipped or simply replaced by coffee. Breakfast is your first source of energy for the day, and plays a big role in maintaining a healthy metabolism.

In a Middle Eastern diet, the relationship between the time of day and meal priority is almost the opposite. Breakfast is an important meal in which many items are served in a sit-down style, and lunch also plays an essential part. It is the biggest meal of the day and is ideally home-cooked. Dinner is hardly given any attention at all compared to the previous two. People usually eat a sandwich, fruits, or often even just breakfast foods.

The Middle Eastern diet is not perfect though, as meal times are pushed back, with lunch served around 3 or 4 p.m. and dinner served as late as 10 p.m.

Ingredients

The expression "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper," refers to the amount of food that is appropriate for each meal, but it is important to remember that the content of the meals should always be healthy as well. Breakfast should include carbohydrates to provide you with energy but should ideally not be packed with too much refined sugar.

Avoid pancakes, sugary pastries and sugary cereals. Use whole-wheat bread and healthy cereals that are made up of unrefined complex carbohydrates and are abundant with fiber. Don't forget your protein to give a boost to your memory, concentration and learning ability. A Middle Eastern breakfast consists of pita bread served with various dishes of olive oil, mixed herbs, cheese, eggs, hummus and tea.

Lunch should be a very well balanced meal. It should contain about equal parts carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, focusing primarily on energy supply because it is served early in the day. Protein should make up a much smaller portion of your lunch. If you would like to have a dessert or a treat, have it after lunch instead of dinner so your system will have a much longer time to process it.

Dinner is theoretically the last meal of the day, and the nutritional group in focus should be protein. Protein feeds both muscles and your brain, and it is necessary for you to get a good amount after your day to enrich those cells. Avoid carbohydrates at dinnertime, and do not consume fried or processed food. These items can cause weight issues and sleep problems if eaten at a late time.

Hopefully, this comparison makes apparent the healthy qualities and flaws of your diet so that you are able to adjust to a healthier lifestyle.

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