Eating more frequently, such as every three hours, can help you lose weight if it’s done correctly. The proper portion sizes, types of foods and other factors should be considered when planning a healthy diet plan that consists of more than three meals a day. A 1998 Spanish study published by the National Institutes of Health compared elderly women who ate two to three meals a day to those who ate four to five. The group that ate more frequently had fewer instances of obesity and better cholesterol levels overall.
Eating more frequently, like every three hours, can help to keep your metabolism high, which in turn helps keep your energy levels high all day long, according to Jerry Toler, a certified personal trainer and nutritional counselor at Better Bodies Inc. A high metabolism means your body is constantly burning more calories throughout the day. The more calories you burn, the more efficient your body is at burning fat.
Eating equally sized portions as you would during a three-meal-a-day eating regimen will lead to weight gain when eating every three hours. Although eating more frequently may help to boost your metabolism, the extra calories consumed will lead to an excess of calories in your diet. Proper portions are the key to losing weight on a four-to-six-meal-a-day diet plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends ordering a smaller meal when dining out and not going for seconds when dining in. Furthermore, you shouldn’t eat in front of the TV or directly out of a package or box of food because people tend to eat more than they should.
Types of Meals
The types of meals you eat are equally, if not more, important than how often you eat. A weight loss plan should include a well-balanced meal plan consisting of nutritionally dense foods that are low in sugar and salt. Two effective diet regimens following these guidelines include the DASH Diet Plan and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid Plan. In general, you should be consuming plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nonfat dairy and lean protein sources.
Eating more frequently throughout the day can help you to avoid binge eating and/or food cravings because your body is constantly being fueled at more frequent intervals. That means you won’t feel as hungry as before even though you may be eating fewer calories than you did when you were eating three meals per day.
You must consider your total caloric intake when changing your eating schedule. For instance, you wouldn’t want to accidentally consume an extra 1,000 calories while trying to lose weight simply because you didn’t plan your diet well. One effective strategy for planning your eating schedule is to use MyPyramid.gov to determine your free, personalized diet plan and daily caloric intake recommendation based on the USDA’s scientific research. Once you know how many calories you should be consuming each day, divide them equally based on how many meals you plan to eat. For instance, if you need 2,000 calories per day and plan to eat every three hours starting at 9 a.m., you would want to target 500 calories per meal, assuming a four-meal-a-day schedule.
- National Institutes of Health: Relationship Between the Number of Daily Meals and the Energy and Nutrient Intake in the Elderly
- Daily Journal Online: Eating Every Three Hours May Be Key to Losing Weight
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How to Avoid Portion Size Pitfalls to Help Manage Your Weight