Many discussions around healthier eating place emphasis on the type and quality of food you should be consuming to get the most protein, vitamins, and minerals needed for good nutrition. What many people tend to overlook is that how often you eat can play an equally important role in helping you manage your weight and daily caloric intake. Currently, there are two schools of thought on how often a person should have meals. Some people abide by the traditional rule of three meals a day while others believe that eating six smaller meals can help you to better manage your food cravings and resist the urge to snack.
Whichever method you choose to abide by, here are some healthful tips to keep in mind to help you keep track of your calories and cravings for better nutrition.
- Eat a healthy breakfast – Many people have a very light breakfast or in some cases, skip it completely. Breakfast provides vital calories that give you energy to start your day. Even if you take smaller meals, breakfast prevents you from feeling hungry throughout the morning so that you won't be tempted to overeat at your next meal.
- Adjust your portions according to how often you eat – If you're a three-meal-a-day person, each meal—including breakfast—should make up one-third of your entire caloric intake (the average adult requires 1,500 to 2,200 calories per day). Smaller, more frequent meals can be less strenuous on your digestive system and help you to better regulate your blood sugar, cravings, and hunger. Whatever your eating schedule is, stick to what your body is used to.
- Try to avoid letting yourself become hungry so that you don't overeat – Overeating burdens your digestive system and it can hurt your diet by creating an imbalance in your daily eating habits. Going for long stretches of not eating can encourage you to binge eat at your next meal, which is not a healthy pattern. If you must snack, choose healthier, low-calorie options such as fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, or a fat-free cup of yogurt.
- Avoid eating dinner in front of the television – Many people wind down at the end of the day by eating dinner while watching their favorite TV shows. This can encourage you to eat “mindlessly” without really paying attention to your portion sizes.
- Don't eat late at night – Late-night meals have been associated with weight challenges and sleeplessness because your stomach is still working to process your food instead of resting. Avoid eating after a certain time, but if you can't resist it, once again choose healthier snack options such as carrots or celery sticks with fat-free dressing as a dip, or fresh fruit.
Consistency is the key to achieving any goal, whether it's weight management, fitness, or healthier eating. By sticking to regular—and more nutritious—meals, you can balance your caloric intake and cravings more efficiently and make unhealthy snacking a thing of the past.
- Apovian C. Holding Back Hunger. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/weight-management/specialist/apovian/holding-back-hunger.aspx
- Bauer J. Finding Quick and Healthy Eats. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-specialist/healthy-eats.aspx?xid=nl_EverydayHealthHealthyLiving_20130407
- Zelman KM. The Truth About 6 Meals a Day a for Weight Loss. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-6-meals-day-weight-loss
- Roberts HL. Why Shouldn’t I Eat Late at Night? LiveStrong. https://www.livestrong.com/article/467274-why-shouldnt-i-eat-late-at-night/