If you are a person who enjoys grazing more than you enjoy sitting down to a big meal, you are going to be delighted by some recently published research.
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that those who consume 6 smaller meals per day, as opposed to people who ate fewer than 4 meals per day, actually made more nutritious choices and had lower BMIs.
Researchers think that there are multiple reasons for these results. Certain factors, such as hormonal issues and delayed gastric emptying, can affect a person’s sensation of hunger and affect when and how much they actually eat.
Critics claim that eating too many meals throughout the day can affect insulin levels and cause your body to store fat. But, Jen McDaniel, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, explains that when the meals are spaced out properly, these effects can be minimized and you can experience better results from frequent, smaller meals.
McDaniel states, “For people with normal blood sugar control, eating 6 smaller balanced meals per day spaced out every 3 to 4 hours shouldn’t cause elevated insulin levels. In fact, by doing this you’re keeping blood sugar levels stable, which makes you less likely to overeat or make impulsive food choices when you do eat.”
Another result of the research that can help people learn how to consume and store less fat is that scientists discovered that those who ate the majority of their daily calories earlier in the day tended to weigh less than those who ate larger meals later in the day.
McDaniel explains, “Upfronting your calories like this gives you energy when you need it most, so you’re using those calories for fuel. People also tend to eat mindlessly at night.” Most people are guilty of indulging in unhealthy snacks while relaxing, especially while watching television in the evenings. Once in a while won’t hurt you, but if you make it a habit, you won’t like the results.
Eating 6 meals per day does mean controlling your caloric intake. You do not want these meals to be high-cal events.
Here is an example that may help you figure out how to get the right calories at the right time of day. For those who are more active, these numbers can be adjusted:
Meal 1: 400 calories
Meal 2: 200 calories
Meal 3: 400 calories
Meal 4: 200 calories
Meal 5: 500 calories
Meal 6: 100 calories
If you are not struggling with your weight, then you might already be getting the right amount of calories at the right times of the day. But, if you are looking for suggestions for how to improve, then this research might lead to some new ideas and new habits for you!