Small meals frequently throughout the day or larger meals consumed less frequently?? This is one of the very new controversies stirring a debate in the nutrition world. Typically, the first dietary change made while adapting a healthy lifestyle change is to consume several small nutritious meals, strategically spread across the day. However, recently this very well known theory is questioned by many. So with this latest battle between the two hypothesis, lets understand which of these should be you ideal way of life.
Theory 1- Multiple small meals, through-out the day:
For years we’ve been suggested to eat 3 balanced meals and an additional 1 to 3 snacks per day (depending on the length of the day). The philosophy is to make sure you don’t enter a starvation state by keeping long gaps without eating. After going without food for a prolonged period of time, one tends to become ravenous and the next meal is consumed as if food will disappear from the universe by tomorrow. The food choice then is basically anything they can find, from fast food to high-calorie treats.
Sensibly speaking, having a small, healthy snack between meals (salad sticks and hummus, open toast, kurmura or khakara) can curb hunger until the next meal and enable people to make sane food choices. Additionally, frequent eating of nutritious meals increases metabolic rate, decreases fatigue and lowers appetite.
Unfortunately, one big issue I’ve seen with clients is they tend to overdose on the snacks. The concept of frequent meals is similar to a house of cards. They all depend on the quality and consumption of the previous level (I mean the previous meal). If one stage is skipped for any reason or the food was unsubstantial, then the stacked up meal plan can collapse dramatically. Sadly, foods chosen thereafter are disastrous (like cookies, cakes, sugary beverages) with empty nutritional value but filled with enormous post-eating guilt.
Theory 2- Few meals, larger meals
The contradictory viewpoint is to eat one or two larger meals per day, keeping the stomach full and satiated eventually giving people less of an opportunity to nibble extra calories throughout the day. The more times a day you sit down to eat a meal or snack, the more opportunities you have to overeat. So keeping meals infrequent but maintain the caloric intake can avoid any additional overeating.
However, putting the body through a state of starvation, by staying empty stomach for more than 3-4 hours, can lead to higher blood sugar levels and a delayed insulin response (two conditions that can lead to diabetes if continued over a long period of time). Another downside to this way of eating is that most people may not be able to take in all of their essential nutrients in one or two sittings, especially since several vitamins and minerals negate each other in the body. (For example, iron is less likely to be absorbed when high amounts of calcium are around).
To wrap it up, should you eat three meals a day or to six small meals a day? I suggest stick to eating smaller, frequent meals as opposed to eating one or two larger ones. However, that doesn’t give you a hall pass to eat whatever you want. Calories still need to be kept in check and food choices should be well balanced from all the food groups.
Eat Often! Stay Healthy!