By now it should be obvious that in the journey towards optimal health, what you eat is extremely important but did you know that how often you eat can also make a huge difference when it comes to nailing those health goals? Today we are going to take a look at why you should consider eating more throughout the day. Timing your meals so that you eat smaller, more frequent meals will help you cut calories, prevent overeating and help stabilize blood glucose levels, which can have a myriad of health benefits ranging from lower cholesterol to even a lower BMI.
While there are many proponents of eating the traditional three meals a day, proponents of eating smaller, more frequent meals will argue that this method of eating will help regulate the number of calories put into your body and prevent gorging at mealtime. The idea is that the more frequently you eat, the less calories you will actually consume at each “mini meal” and your overall calories consumed in one day will be less than if you eat three larger meals. Traditionally, when people eat three meals a day, they allow roughly 5 hours to pass between each meal. This allows someone more time to get hungry before their next meal, increasing the chance that they will overeat when they get the chance to sit down with some food. If you eat five or six small meals a day, then you allow less time between meals and won’t be as hungry, thereby reducing the chance of overeating at any particular meal.
So will eating more meals help you actually lose weight? At the end of the day, it all depends on the healthy choices you make when you sit down for those meals because if you aren’t reaching something nutritious it will be really tough to lose weight. However, according to one study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who ate 6 small meals per day consumed more nutritious foods and had lower BMIs than people who ate fewer than 4 times per day. While the act of simply eating more frequently throughout the day won’t help you lose weight all on its own, reaching for smaller, healthier options will reduce overall calorie intake and this will help aid in weight loss.
Another finding in the British Medical Journal found that people who ate six small meals a day had lower cholesterol levels than those who ate three large meals. When you don’t eat regularly, your body will begin to store more of the food that you eat, including cholesterol and fat. However, when you are eating consistently throughout the day, your body will understand that more food is on the way and be more adept at burning calories instead of storing cholesterol and fat. Lower cholesterol levels will also lower your risk of cancer, hypertension and diabetes.
So how else does science support eating smaller, more frequent meals? For starters, there is plenty of evidence that suggests eating more frequent meals really benefits people struggling with diabetes or hypoglycemia. Small meals contain less amounts of glucose than large meals, causing blood sugar to increase at a smaller rate. In fact, one study showed that higher meals frequencies resulted in more controlled blood sugar rates than eating less meals in a day which helps to keep insulin at a consistent level, something important for controlling how the body uses and stores fat.
If you are thinking about making the switch from eating three large meals to eating smaller sized, more frequent meals, then it is good to have a plan. Here are a couple of tips for making this switch:
- Have a goal to eat every 3 hours, starting with breakfast, so that you space your meals out evenly.
- Keep your portions small. Use a measuring cup to make sure you are following the nutrition labels. One serving size can quickly turn into two or three if you don’t pay attention!
- Prep food ahead of time so that you are reaching for healthier options. Great “mini meals” that are easy to take on the go are turkey and low fat cheese roll ups, hard boiled eggs, nuts and fruit.
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Ecklecamp, Stephanie. “Thinner People Eat THIS Many Meals a Day”. Prevention.22 June 2015. Accessed 22 September 2017.
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Jacob, Aglaee. “How to Eat Six Times a Day and Lose Weight.” Livestrong. 18 July 2017. Accessed 22 September 2017.
Munsters, Marjet J. M., and Wim H. M. Saris. “Effects of Meal Frequency on Metabolic Profiles and Substrate Partitioning in Lean Healthy Males.” Ed. Anita Magdalena Hennige. PLoS ONE 7.6 (2012): e38632. PMC. Web. 23 Sept. 2017.
Pletcher, Peggy. “How to Time Your Meals for Weight Loss”. Healthline. 5 October 2016. Accessed 22 September 2017.