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5 Ways To Make Food Work For You

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October saw the launch of Bobby Flay's newest cooking show, "Brunch @ Bobby's." Like most, I watched those Flay-signature recipes fly across the screen: Peach Smothered French Toast, Ranch-Style Chorizo Eggs with Tomato-Red Chile sauce, Spicy Home Fries, Spicy Guacamole and Sangrita: his Bloody Mary Margarita. All are dazzling and delicious. They're also best for dinner. Yes, dinner.

Bobby baby, the show title should be "Brunch @ Bobby's, Plus An Afternoon Nap." I tried the peach smothered French toast for dinner this week, and was more than happy with how I felt post-meal -- ready to relax. Upon eating this dish in the morning, you know what's next: that wonderful but deadly food-induced coma.

We all experience the results of food comas wreaking havoc. You eat a meal that leaves you feeling like a zombie. Then you rush to a café and find an over-caffeinated but lifeless barista, but the caffeine fix is a temporary fix at best. The real solution lies in paying attention to how your body feels after meals, plus eating the right foods for the right activity.

The alternative doctors, nutritionists and naturopaths I've met advise their patients to pay attention to both. This could be a challenge for most. After all, we've been taught that certain foods are to be eaten in the morning, afternoon or night -- so this new way of thinking goes against everything you learned from mom.

But for now, let's focus on that delectable peach smothered French toast mentioned earlier. Picture that thick, sweet sauce covering vanilla-scented bread, which immediately causes the body and mind to feel relaxed. Pair it with some white wine, the right protein (try a hard boiled or poached egg), and within hours the inevitable food coma will have you ready for deep sleep.

There's a bonus in trying breakfast at night. It only took 15 minutes to prepare this meal. Spending less time in the kitchen with quick cleanup leaves more time to relax with a full belly and mellow manner -- the perfect end to an evening. When you fall asleep, the food-induced blackout hits at the best time: nighttime.

I can hear the ensuing comments, so let's deal with the obvious right away: all-you-can-eat pancakes before midnight is not how to make this work! That is a guaranteed way to a fat tire and seriously poor sleep. Whatever you try -- breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast -- create a meal that gives you energy, instead of making you feel as if a siesta is the only option. Just focus on these two things: how your body responds to food, and the best food for a specific activity.

If you need to workout, make the meal work for you. Personal trainer and Your Next Victory founder, Jaiya Figueres, recommends the right balance of carbs, protein and fat to help your body receive the necessary fuel it needs pre-workout. He suggests a balance of 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat for breakfast. Calculating this food formula is as much fun as doing taxes, so here's an example that fits the ratio: a cup of whole grain pasta with sautéed garlic, tomatoes, spinach, a touch of plain yogurt, and soft boiled or poached egg on top (recipe below). This gets me through 60 minutes of heavy cardio and strength training, and may help you get through a very busy morning.

Start making your meals work for you, by shifting your thoughts around food by following these five steps.

1. Pay Attention to How Your Body Reacts to Certain Foods.
The results are different for everyone, what works for me may not work for you. This area is most challenging for people to figure out, but can make an enormous difference overall. My own discovery was with coffee. A nutritionist suggested I stop drinking it for two months, and my stomach problems ceased almost immediately. I was able to apply the same approach with food. For some people, it helps to eliminate or limit a particular food for one month. Try reintroducing it to your system afterwards and see how your body reacts. This approach doesn't work for everyone, so check with your doctor to see if this is a good idea for you.

2. Plan Your Meals Around an Activity.
When most people plan meals around a specific activity, they experience better results. Have an all nighter at work? Eat every three-to-four hours and make the choices healthy. Working out? Many nutritionists recommend a meal that has the 50/30/20 ratio of carbs/protein/fat. Need a good night's sleep? Eat a meal that's slightly heavier in carbs, but balance those smaller portions with protein. You'll hear a lot of controversy around this, but many experts recommend eating at least three to four hours before bedtime.

3. Breakfast for Dinner? Give it a Try!
These traditional meals may be better suited at night, but not right before bedtime. You've heard this before, but try to minimize portion sizes and overly processed items as well. Here's more advice from Jaiya, who shared the following, "Personally, I don't think your body knows or cares if you eat dinner at breakfast and vice versa. I like a nice bowl of pasta with lean beef and tomato sauce some mornings, then a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk for dinner some nights!"

4. Avoid Highly Processed Foods.
Many food-like products are full of overly processed ingredients and are high in sodium to preserve their shelf life. What does this mean for you? While processed foods can be tasty, they have very little nutrients to help your body during the digestive process. By eating this kind of food, you're asking your body to work way too hard, and your body may feel sluggish. Prepare foods as close to their natural state as possible, which will provide you with energy throughout the day.

5. Always Remember That Food Is Fuel.

Putting the right food in your body can satisfy more than an appetite. You'll most likely feel equipped to handle any activity in your day. Your menu gets more interesting when trying something different, so make a jump into thinking differently about your meals.

Mona Holmes-Nisker
Los Angeles Food Writer
Author of the upcoming cookbook, "Cook This...Get Laid"

Follow Mona on Twitter: twitter.com/cookthisgetlaid and twitter.com/monaeats

Breakfast Pasta

1 cup whole grain pasta or non-gluten pasta
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, diced in half
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large handful spinach, chopped
1 dollop plain yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
1 soft boiled egg

Prepare your pasta. In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil then add the garlic. Let garlic and olive oil combine for 15 seconds, then add tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes. (Note: Now is a good time to start boiling that egg.) Add spinach until wilted, then remove from heat. Make sure your egg cooks for 3 minutes, so keep an eye on the time. Drain pasta, and combine it in the sauté pan with remaining ingredients, top with your peeled soft-boiled egg, and breakfast is ready!