Chrononutrition: what to eat and at what time of day?

Fancy trying out the new Chrononutrition diet but not sure how to go about it? necessary or not? We'll tell you everything you need to know.

What is chrononutrition and what are its advantages and drawbacks? Is it right for me? Eating properly should be something simple and pleasant. It shouldn't make you suffer. Rather than being a slimming diet, chrononutrition is a whole new approach to how we eat.

Are you aiming to lose weight or just looking for a more balanced diet? And wondering whether this kind of diet might be just the thing for you? We reveal all!

What is chrononutrition ? 

Chrononutrition is "eating anything you like, but at very specific times of day." Those are the words of Dr. Delabos, who came up with this diet to help you fulfil your body's daily energy needs. Therefore, chrononutrition resets the way we eat according to our biological clock. So it's our body clock that tells you when to eat (and how!). Therefore, as you've no doubt grasped, a chrononutrition diet leaves you free to eat whatever you like, as long as you eat at "the right time of day."

Chrononutrition man prepares breakfast

The fundamental principles of chrononutrition 

"Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper."

With chrononutrition, you can really do justice to this well-known saying!

The day is based around 4 meals, timed at least 4h apart in order to prevent the body from storing fats.

What should you eat for breakfast?

Breakfast is the time of day when the body produces the most "lipases," the enzymes that enable you to break down lipids (that means fats!).

Following this diet means having a big breakfast because your body has been fasting: you are literally "breaking the fast." Your body needs to recover energy! So your breakfast should be rich in fats and proteins.

If you decide to take up this diet, you can therefore say goodbye to the "fruit juice – bowl of cereal and milk" approach.

Breakfast foods of choice include:

- cheese,

- butter (ideally clarified, since that removes the lactose),

- oilseeds (almonds, nuts, cajun nuts, peanuts)

- avocado,

- virgin vegetable oils from first cold pressing,

- eggs,

- ham,

- or even bread (ideally wholemeal).

For drinks, you can drink tea, infusions or coffee, but without sugar.

Our tip: If you're the early-bird sporty type, this kind of breakfast will be a bit too hard to digest before your session. Plus, it might not bring you the complex and simple sugars you need for your exertion. I'd therefore advise you to bend the rules a little. Instead, go for carbohydrates of low to medium glycemic index, such as fresh fruit with a handful of oleaginous products (almonds or nuts) or maybe a bowl of porridge with dried fruit. For more information on the glycemic index of foods, you can check out our article on the subject!

- red or white meat;

- rice, pasta, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, polenta, etc.;

- vegetables (green or coloured such as green beans, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc.).

What should you eat for lunch?

Lunchtime should in fact be a one-dish meal containing: as many vegetables as you like, proteins and a little cereal. It should be a complete meal that fills you up. However, I'd advise not to go overboard on quantities, to avoid feeling bloated and getting the infamous mid-afternoon slump.

Here again, we'd recommend that you reduce your sugar intake and skip dessert! Don't forget, with chrononutrition, lunch is a one-dish meal. But you can still treat yourself to some cottage cheese!

Lunch foods of choice include:

- red or white meat;

- rice, pasta, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, polenta, etc.;

- vegetables (green or coloured such as green beans, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc.).

Chrononutrition : tea-time snack

What should you eat for your tea-time snack?

Here it is at last! With chrononutrition, you're allowed a tea-time snack. "Something sweet, at long last!"  I hear you say! It's a meal in itself. This is the time of day when your body is at its peak of "glucase" production - the enzymes that break down sugars. Therefore this is definitely the time to eat sugars!

Your snack should therefore consist of carbohydrates, fibres and perhaps even vegetable protein if you're very hungry. That portion of flan's been giving you the eye since this morning, now it's time to eat it!


Snack foods of choice include:

- fresh fruit;

- dried fruit;

- peanuts;

- cakes / biscuits (in moderation) ;

- chocolate (ideally black chocolate, with minimum 70% cocoa) ;

- an infusion with a little bit of sugar! (ideally natural, non-refined sugar);

- cottage cheese with honey or jam.~ 

Our tip : your tea-time snack should be taken if you're hungry. If you feel you need a snack and it's been less than 4h since you had lunch, then it means you haven't eaten enough protein at lunchtime.

What should you eat for dinner?

Chrononutrition dictates a light dinner. It should consist of foods that are easy to digest such as fish, vegetable proteins (lentils, chick peas, red beans, soya, etc.) and legumes (green or coloured: raw or cooked).

For this last meal of the day, you should once again avoid fats and sugars.

Our tip: If you're not hungry, you can skip the evening meal. However, if you've just finished a sport session, I'd advise you to eat a little to recharge your muscles. Take smaller portions or consider having vegetable juice! It'll give you a high concentration of minerals and vitamins that's easy to digest.

And what's it really like, then? a typical day on chrononutrition  

Breakfast : cheese + wholemeal bread with a little butter + hot sugar-free drink.

Lunch: a slab of red or white meat + semi-wholemeal or wholemeal pasta + green beans.

Tea-time snack : an infusion + 1 handful of almonds + one fresh fruit or 5 dates

Dinner : a fillet of grilled salmon or lentils + a green salad.

A vegetarian version:

Breakfast : a chia grain pudding + handful of oleaginous products + wholemeal bread slice with avocado

Lunch : scrambled tofu with spices + semi-wholemeal or wholemeal pasta + green beans.

Tea-time snack : an infusion + 1 handful of almonds + one fresh fruit or 5 dates

Dinner : Red lentil Dhal with coconut milk + a green salad.

Our tip : Obviously, chrononutrition doesn't prevent you from staying hydrated. So don't forget to drink a few glasses of water with your meals, or infusions (without sugar!). As many as you like!

What are the advantages of chrononutrition?

If you're thinking about restructuring your diet or if you want to lose a few extra pounds, chrononutrition might be just the thing for you. Why? This dietary regime doesn't require you to go hungry, or even to go on a diet. When you eat what you need at the time you need it, your body won't store fats and sugars (unless they're consumed in excessive quantities). The fact is that if the body has no need of certain nutrients at the time we eat them, it won't absorb these nutrients optimally; instead, it will store them.

Plus, when you follow a chrononutrition diet, you're allowed 2 "joker" meals" (or “cheat meals”) per week, during which you can eat whatever you like. That's a nice advantage!

It's the type of non-restrictive diet that can prove more durable than other diets, and therefore better for your health than short, sharp slimming diets with their yo-yo effect!

What are the drawbacks of chrononutrition?

This type of diet can prove more restrictive for some people, such as those who like to do sport early in the morning, and won't get the complex and simple sugars they need for their exercise.

For vegetarians and vegans, the meals also need a bit of tweaking. Chrononutrition prioritises the consumption of animal products (especially in the morning) since they are richer in fats.

I'd also advise you to watch you consumption of refined sugars and saturated fats from dairy products and animal protein, which may have harmful consequences for your health.

It's also the kind of diet that might feel restrictive since it is the opposite of intuitive eating. Following these rather strict rules (eating at set times, eating set types of food, while adhering to the 4h gap between each meal) may induce the urge to snack and diminish the feeling of pleasure that is, after all, essential to our well-being!

Chrononutrition: a few tips before you give it a go

Eating is a way to take care of your body and should remain pleasurable.

Here are a few tips that might help you along the way:

1/ adapt this diet to your lifestyle and your personal beliefs (sporty, vegetarian, no time in the morning, etc.).

2/ you can replace some foods by others if need be (meat or eggs with tofu and chia grain, butter with virgin vegetable oil or oilseed butters, etc.). Be flexible!

3/ If you're doing sport after breakfast, go for a sugary breakfast with healthy fats (oilseeds); not only is this better for exercise but it's also easier to digest.

4/ in all cases, give preference to natural foods rather than processed ones even when the latter seem to be "allowed" by chrononutrition. For the tea-time snack, I'd therefore recommend fresh fruit, oleaginous products or a piece of home-made cake rather than a packet of biscuits from the supermarket.

5/ and finally, listen to your body! If you're not hungry, don't force yourself to eat. Your body is smart, and it'll let you know when it needs more fuel.

Recipe for chia grain pudding, perfect for breakfast (ingredients for 2 people):

· 200 ml of vegetable milk (coconut, soya, almond, oat, etc.)

· 4 fully laden tablespoons of chia grains

· ½ cc vanilla powder

Step 1: Mix everything together and leave it to rest for 15 min (in the fridge or at room temperature).

Step 2: Add a generous handful of oilseeds on top for more crunchiness and protein!

Whatever your goal, chrononutrition is an interesting way to approach nutrition because it respects your body's biological clock. However, it does have its drawbacks, particularly in terms of lifestyle. My advice is therefore to try out various types of diet such as this one and then tailor one to suit your own needs!

Alexandra Portail Signature


Naturopath advice in food and sports health

Naturopath, yoga enthusiast and pole dancer, but also and above all, someone in search of well-being. I write about health and offer my personalised services because I want to make people's lives more healthy. My motto: "A healthy mind in a healthy body!"