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Weight Loss and Sequential Eating

Weight Loss and Sequential Eating

by Laura J Hieb, ND on August 3, 2022

Long before I had heard of sequential eating, I read an article on eating habits of children. The article stated that children who were overweight tended to eat their favorite part of a meal first, while children who were not overweight, tended to eat their favorite part of a meal last.

Although I was a skinny kid growing up in the seventies, who always "saved the best for last" as we called it, I found the content of this article counter-intuitive-- even though it worked for me.

It seemed to me, that it you ate your favorite food first, you might consume fewer calories/less food, because, having already eaten your favorite food, you could stop as soon as you were feeling full. But if you ate your favorite food last, it would seem that you might consume more calories/food, because you would have to eat everything else before getting to eat your favorite food.

But then I learned about sequential eating, and it all made sense.

What is sequential eating?

It is eating foods in a meal in a certain order to help minimize glucose (sugar) and insulin spikes.

Glucose, and insulin spikes (insulin spikes follow glucose spikes) lead to weight gain (plus chronic disease).

So with sequential eating, you eat your non-starchy veggies, which contain fiber, first. The fiber swells in your stomach, which slows down how fast food/sugar leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine, which slows down sugar absorption. The slower sugar is absorbed, the less likely we are to have a glucose spike and an insulin spike.

The vegetables also coat the stomach, which also slows down sugar absorption, since sugar, like alcohol is absorbed directly into the blood stream, via the stomach walls. If you've ever had an alcoholic beverage on an empty stomach, you know it affected you more than if you had it with a meal. Same with sugar!

Next, eat protein and fats, ie, meat, fish, eggs or dairy, soy, etc. The protein and fats also coat your stomach to limit the absorption of sugar directly into the blood stream.

Now that you've got your stomach full of fiber, fat and protein, you can eat your starches (rice, potatoes, corn, peas, squash, pasta, etc) and very lastly your dessert/sweets, including fruit.

Eating in this sequence slows the absorption of sugar into your blood stream and into your small intestine, which will blunt your glucose and insulin spikes, and that will help you lose weight.

For example, if you are having a meal of salmon, asparagus, rice and a green salad, with chocolate cake for dessert (because it is your birthday ;), you would start with the salad, then the asparagus, then the salmon, then the rice and lastly the cake. Do not take a break between dinner and dessert, or this will not work.

This is kind of how little kids eat: one food at a time.

As adults, we might like to mix it up a bit and you can too.

Adding fats to veg is fine, especially in terms of a vinaigrette or other non-sweet dressing on your green salad that you eat before your meal, or adding butter to your asparagus.

You could eat most of your salad, some of your asparagus, and then start in on the salmon. Then continue with the salad and asparagus and add the rice after you've eaten at least half of the salmon.

This is not to say you can eat all the sweets you want, as long as you eat them this way, but when you do choose to eat starches or sweets, this will help you to have better blood sugar control. Which will result in weight loss.

What about foods that have veg, protein and starch all mixed in together, like  pizza, pasta, sandwiches and hamburgers?

With pizza or pasta, I would have a green salad of other veg first, then the pizza or pasta.

For sandwiches and burgers, you can eat the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, etc, first, then the meat/cheese, and lastly the bread or bun. I know, this doesn't seem so fun, but if it means eating sandwiches and burgers and losing weight at the same time...

Because people do lose weight eating this way. And they lose weight without changing what they're eating, just how they're eating. What a novel way of losing weight!

So back to the kids saving the best for last. I'm sure there was some skinny kid out there who saved her vegetables for last, but I'm also sure she was an exception.

I remember eating my vegetables first and my starch last. My husband remembers eating his veg first, then his starch and then his meat--but he was still a skinny kid.

Basically if your eat your veg first, you are ahead of the game--BUT for the best effects, eat your starch/fruit/sweets last.

Give it a try and see what you notice.