How Many Times A Day Should We Really Be Eating?

Nutrition // Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu

You should graze all day… You should eat 3 meals a day… You should skip breakfast… You should eat 6 meals a day… You should stop eating after 7pm… So many opinions!! There’s no wonder it can leave us all a little confused. So, how many times a day should we really be eating? And is it different for every person?

It might seem like a strange scenario, but understanding when to eat and how much to eat is incredibly important.

There is no one rule for everyone and that’s simply because we all lead very different lives. Let’s take a look at a few different scenarios, and work out which is best for you.

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GRAZING

The problem with grazing, or eating very small meals across the course of the day, is that you never truly feel satisfied. You start thinking about your next snack (or mini-meal) as soon as you finish the last. This kind of eating only really works for elderly individuals with very little appetite and toddlers exploring new foods.

THREE MEALS A DAY

If you are trying to lose weight, having 3 balanced and substantial meals is a great approach. It minimises mindless snacking and you feel satisfied after each meal and hungry for the next. A little bit of hunger is not a bad thing. If you are highly active, a small snack between meals may be required also. 

Also read: Foods To Keep You Fuller For Longer

SKIPPING BREAKFAST

Skipping breakfast, or extending your overnight fast can be effective for people who lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle. If the morning hunger is relentless though, this process is not ideal for you. Instead, a light morning breakfast may be required. 

EAT 6 MEALS A DAY

If you are looking to gain weight or ‘size’ than eating multiple times a day will ensure the body does not need to tap into your reserves for energy. So if you are looking at increasing size or wanting large ‘gains’, multiple meals a day can be useful. 

YOU SHOULD STOP EATING AFTER 7pm

If you are a night time snacker, having a structure in place that indicates your ‘kitchen is closed’ can be very useful. Having an overnight fast of 12 hours, 7pm to 7am, can be a beneficial guide for reining in any evening nibbles habit. If you work late or on a shift, this approach is not for you. 

So… when deciding when to eat, tap into your hunger cues and have an honest think about your day. Have you been at a desk all day, or have you been active on a building site? Are you trying to lose weight, or gain weight? Do you have a growl in the belly, or are you simply bored? 

Your body is incredibly clever at indicating when you need to ‘top up’. So don’t ignore those signals and make sensible and honest choices for your body about when is best for YOU to eat. 

For more support and guidance in healthy eating and finding your own healthy habits, visit us here.  

 

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