We tend to focus a lot of our attention on eating the right foods to maintain a healthy diet, but what if that's only part of the battle? Research has shown that eating at the proper time of day is essential to getting the proper nutrients from the foods you're eating. We can't always control our schedules, but here are a few things to consider when planning your breakfast, lunch, and dinner:

Breakfast:

Eating breakfast about an hour after you wake up each morning will provide you with the energy you need to get your day going. After the long night before, your body has been without any nutrients for quite a few hours. Try eating whole grains like whole wheat toast or oatmeal, proteins like eggs and a glass of 1% or non-fat milk, and, of course, fresh fruit for fiber. This will give you the burst of energy you need to start your day off right.

Lunch:

Lunch should be consumed about four to five hours after breakfast. The longer you push back this meal, the more likely you are to consume a larger, unhealthy meal later on. Contrary to popular belief, lunch should technically be your largest meal of the day. This is essential for sustaining your energy, but also to allow for proper digestion. Eating a larger meal earlier in the day allows the body to fully digest the food and get rid of any unnecessary fats or toxins. Try eating a whole grain sandwich or whole grain pasta with fresh veggies and fruit. These foods will fill you up enough to hold off those afternoon cravings for junk food and candy. However, sometimes we just can't resist those delicious treats, so try your best and remember to enjoy them in moderation!

Dinner:

Dinner should come about five hours after your lunch. It can still be a filling meal that satisfies your hunger, but should consist mainly of colorful vegetables like red peppers, broccoli, or sweet potatoes, and proteins like lean meats, fish or even tofu. Stir-fry is a delicious option that contains all of these healthy foods! Just add some fresh spices, garlic, and olive oil, and you're ready to go. However, be sure to eat at least three hours before going to bed. Going to sleep soon after eating restricts the body from properly digesting your meal and can cause unnecessary fats to be stored in your body. If you're like me and you have to have your nightly dessert, try to either minimize your portions or eat it earlier to allow for proper digestion.

Obviously, there are days when all of these things are not at all possible, but trying to stick with this pattern will greatly enhance the amount of nutrients and energy that your body consumes. If you know you can't eat lunch at the ideal time on a particular day, plan ahead and pack healthy snacks to keep you from reaching for a candy bar. Snack on nuts and seeds between lunch and dinner to keep you full and focused during the second part of your day. Following these guidelines will greatly enhance the results of your healthy eating patterns. Eating the right foods is only half the battle, so be sure to allow your body the food and energy it needs at the right times. You will feel better in no time!