My father, who recently passed away at the ripe old age of 92, grew up in Germany. Over there they ate a hot meal in the afternoon and at night everyone had sandwiches – which, not for nothing, could be a pretty big deal as well, what with the endless array of cold cuts and fresh breads and potato salads. Dinner is called Abendbrot which, literally translated, means ‘evening bread’ and that pretty much says it all.
As a kid, it was fun mostly because we didn’t necessarily sit down for dinner with the grownups for the evening meal; they would be hanging out , all loose and casual, drinking beer and joking around and the kids could run around outside all over the place, sandwiches in hand, being loud. Nobody cared.
In that house at dinner children weren’t seen or heard because the grownups were so loud they couldn’t hear anything over themselves. We were only eventually lured into the house when Uncle Hans started playing the organ and singing rowdy German songs, his wild red hair sticking out like Bozo the Clown’s.
Honestly, it was pretty wonderful.
For a long time I thought this was a great way to eat: do the big meal in the afternoon and a lighter one in the evening before bed.
Then I went to Spain. There they take a siesta in the heat of the afternoon and have a big meal around 8:30 or 9:00 at night when the air has cooled down a bit. Dinner is long and languid and starlit and big, stretching far into the evening. It is late, late and you are still eating. If you don’t get out till after 11PM, you can still find a place that’s open for dinner. A good place. You are definitely ready for bed after that.
Over here we do things a little differently. We generally eat our dinner a little earlier. We also tend to eat faster. Fast food. Grabbing a bite. Eating on the run. And – on the other end of the spectrum – ‘All You Can Eat”. As if that’s ever a good idea.
Whoever came up with the idea of starting out the day with a hearty breakfast pretty much got the whole deal wrong right from the start. What we want is a healthy breakfast, not a calorie laden combination of bacon, eggs, toast and potatoes that drains our energy for the rest of the morning as we go into digestion overdrive and sits in our stomach like a stone, obstructing anything we put into ourselves from there on out.
But that’s what a lot of people eat, isn’t it? The fortunes of Denny’s and IHOP are forged on the mega breakfast. The few times that I have set foot in one of these places in the last few years, I was dragged by non-raw, non-vegan friends and I was the only person in the entire group that was eating the fresh fruit plate. And let me add that liberties were definitely taken with regard to the use of the word ‘fresh’.
The key to each day and, similarly, to every meal, is Light to Heavy. The first meal of the day should be something easily digestible like fruit or a juice or a smoothie. Things that pass through your system quickly and cleanly, allowing for easy digestion.
The heaviest meal of the day should be consumed at night, preferably earlier in the evening. Nothing should be going down ‘the pipes’ any later than 7PM. The sooner you stop eating for the day, the sooner your body can switch into digestion mode, breaking everything down. But the beauty is that at night our body not only has plenty of time to accomplish this feat, but – if we are eating a healthy raw and/or vegan diet and combining our foods in a way that simplifies the digestive process – then our body can truly go into an extended repair mode during sleep because it’s not being continuously bombarded with more food to which it’s attention has to focus again.
Digestion is strenuous. We need to do everything we can to make it easier.
A light morning meal allows for an extension of the reparation stage so integral to our body’s health and well-being. This is also the reason why frequent grazing throughout the day is so detrimental; it creates a situation where the body is pretty much constantly at work digesting food and nothing else. It’s exhausting.
So whip yourself up a juice first thing in the morning. Then, maybe an hour later, down a fibrous smoothie or a fruit bowl or maybe even some raw muesli if you are feeling particularly hungry. But that’s about as heavy as it should get.
Lunch can constitute more food but make sure that you eat your fruit first and then your greens… before anything else.
Even within meals themselves there should be a light to heavy philosophy. Fruit digests faster than anything else and should never come at a meals finale, rather at the very beginning; fruit that’s eaten at the end of a heavy meal can literally sit on top of all the other stuff that takes longer to break down and, by the time it’s the fruit’s turn, the whole lot of it is fermenting. These are the kinds of eating faux-pas that make a meal treat you miserably.
And it can happen to the most raw of us – especially if we are eating a lot of dehydrated food. We are not immune. But we can be smarter.
For dinner, knock yourself out. If you’ve eaten raw all day -as ideal as it gets – here’s where you can enjoy a big hot vegan meal. Dessert, too. Go for it. We are having Raw Orange Chocolate Cheesecake tonight. Everyone’s mouth has been watering since we made it yesterday.
Eating a diet high in raw foods gives us a clear advantage when it comes to healthy eating because we are virtually flooding our bodies with live foods at their nutritional best. Eating light to heavy insures that those nutrients are delivered as efficiently as possible. That’s a practice that translates no matter where you are in the world.