How often should I eat?
There are no set rules on when you should eat during the day. Generally, it is best for most people to eat breakfast within the first hour of waking to stabilize blood sugar and refuel the body after several hours of not eating due to sleep. After breakfast, the best approach is to listen to your body’s hunger cues.
Try to evaluate where you are with hunger and fullness throughout the day, 1 being very uncomfortable due to extreme hunger (light headedness, growling stomach, headache are a few example symptoms) and 10 being very uncomfortable due to fullness (bloated, stomach pain, nausea are a few example symptoms)
The best approach is to try eating when you begin feeling hungry; eat slowly; and to stop eating before you feel too full. After a few days of eating small healthy meals and snacks you will find your appetite responds quickly to give you the appropriate cues.
The 6 meals a day myth
The University of Ottawa conducted a study which found that there was no weight loss benefits from eating six smaller meals rather than three. A research review was also inconclusive to whether meal frequency helps or hurts with weight loss. So if six meals a day isn’t the way to go then how often should I eat?
Three to four hours
Experts agree that while many meals a day may not boost your metabolism, it may help you in other ways. As we know, the longer the time between meals, the hungrier we get, and this then results in us overeating. The ideal eating pattern is approximately every three to four hours. After 3 hours our blood sugar levels begin to drop, we feel a little tired and a little hungry. After 4 hours our bodies have digested our previous meal and are ready to go again. After 5 hours your blood sugar levels are low and this is when you risk over eating and making bad decisions.
Remember your portions
Eating at the right time and listening to your bodies cues will let you avoid the traps of over eating. Remember that if you leave the time between meals to long you will likely overeat. Pay attention to what you body is telling you and remember to keep your portions in check.
Keep snacks small
A snack is not a meal, keep snacks small. A portion of nuts is about a fistful, don’t overeat simply because the food it healthier. The importance of portion control extends to healthy foods too, not just unhealthy ones. A small fist full of nuts, or a piece of fruit is a perfect snack.
For a good nights sleep try and avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bed. A glass of water, an infusion (flavored teas) or herbal teas (chamomile, berries, herbs, licorice etc) are the perfect end to the evening. Keep your evening snacks light as a sugar spike will wake you up.