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How Often Should I Eat? Meal Patterns & Weight Control

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

What Works? There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to weight loss eating plans. Much of the focus is on choosing the right foods and the proper portions. But research shows the number of meals and when you eat can help with weight control, too.

How Often Should You Eat? People who want to lose weight should eat three meals with one or two snacks daily:

  • Studies have shown that men who eat smaller, more frequent meals consume fewer calories per day.

  • Eating four or five smaller meals or snacks daily is linked to a lower risk of obesity.

  • Eating fewer than four daily meals or snacks may increase the risk of obesity. Eating more than six meals or snacks daily also increases this risk.

  • Why is eating often, but not too often, a good idea for people trying to lose weight? Researchers think that eating frequently reduces hunger. People who are less hungry are less likely to overeat at any one meal. In addition, many individuals skip meals but then eat more later in the day.

Did you know?
  • Studies show that up to about 1 in 4 people skip breakfast in the morning.

  • People who are not overweight or who are maintaining weight loss tend to eat breakfast regularly.

  • People who maintain weight loss tend to eat high-fiber rather than high calorie breakfasts. For example, they eat high-fiber cereal instead of meat and eggs.

  • You need about 25 grams of fiber per day. Eating 3⁄4 cup bran flakes (5 gm fiber) gives you 20% of your daily fiber needs.

The Benefits of Breakfast

It’s a good idea to make breakfast one of the three main meals of the day. Breakfast research shows that:

  • People who eat larger meals (in terms of calories) in the morning, instead of in the evening, tend to have lower body weights.

  • Eating more in the morning is also linked to more weight loss in people trying to lose weight.

  • People who skip breakfast are more likely to become obese than people who eat breakfast.

  • People who ate breakfast ate less at later meals. Breakfast eaters were also less likely to snack impulsively than breakfast skippers.

Bottom line

1. Eat three meals with one or two snacks daily.

2. Avoid skipping meals. Eat breakfast. 3. Don’t eat late in the evening or before bedtime.

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