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Myth or Fact: Many Meals Throughout the Day are Better Than Just Three

Aug 26, 2010


There is a lot of debate over how many meals to eat per day. Proponents of only eating three meals a day argue that eating more often will cause you to consume more calories and gain weight. Proponents of eating five or six meals a day argue that eating smaller meals more frequently causes weight loss by increasing your metabolism. It is a myth that weight loss can be achieved solely by breaking up how much you eat in a day into more meals. Here are some points to consider:

No Magic Numbers

There is no magic number of meals to eat or combination of food that will make you lose weight. Most nutritionists agree that you shouldn’t go many hours between meals, but this doesn’t mean that you should engage in mindless snacking or force yourself to eat five or six full meals either. The American Dietetic Association says that whether you are eating three or six meals a day, weight loss comes down to what you eat and how much. Your weight is still determined by the number of calories you consume minus the number of calories you expend.

To Eat Smaller Portions

Eating smaller meals can have health benefits for some people. If you are a person who tends to go long periods of time without eating and then gorge yourself at dinner, try eating smaller meals more often throughout the day. Try to make each meal between 200 and 500 calories (depending on how much you exercise).

Make Healthy Choices

Whether you are eating three meals or six meals, you should remember to maximize the nutrients at each meal. Try to avoid eating empty calories and processed snack foods. Foods that are low in nutrients and high in calories, like doughnuts, for example, will just cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop, making you hungrier sooner. Instead, try to make each meal balanced with complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, and protein, nuts or low-fat cheese.

To Eat Three Meals

Don’t force yourself to eat food when you aren’t hungry. If you are trying to eat multiple small meals, avoid eating when you are completely full. Learn to listen to your body and make your meals even smaller if you find yourself feeling completely full. If you find that you do well by eating three balanced meals, there isn’t research to suggest that it would benefit you to eat one or two more meals. As long as you are meeting your nutritional requirements, don’t increase your caloric intake.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whether you eat three times a day or six. Choose a meal plan based on your individual nutrition requirements and lifestyle. If you absolutely can’t eat breakfast then don’t. Drink a fruit smoothie or take a granola bar and some fruit for when you do get hungry. If you work out during your lunch break, it is acceptable to eat more at dinner than breakfast or lunch.Think about which method (or combination of methods) will give you the most energy to exercise and not overeat.

 

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