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How to Lose Weight by Skipping Dinner

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
How to Lose Weight by Skipping Dinner
If skipping dinner saves you calories, it may help you lose weight. Photo Credit warrengoldswain/iStock/Getty Images

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs, and skipping meals such as dinner may seem like an easy way to cut calories. It can backfire, however, if it leaves you too hungry or eating too few calories. Before starting your meal-skipping diet, consult a doctor or a registered dietitian for guidance.

How Skipping Dinner Helps With Weight Loss

No matter what strategy you use drop unwanted pounds, the key is to create a negative calorie balance. Given that 1 pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, reducing your calorie intake by 500 calories a day may help you lose 1 pound of fat in a week. For example, a 30-year-old women who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 180 pounds and doesn't exercise needs 2,100 calories to maintain her weight and 1,600 calories to lose.

For many, dinner is the largest meal of the day, and skipping it may save those 500 calories you need to lose the weight. However, this strategy only works if you're not compensating for those lost dinner calories by eating more at breakfast, lunch and snacks. To keep calories under control, distribute them evenly between breakfast and lunch, and leave a few hundred calories for snacks. For example, on a 1,600-calorie weight-loss diet, you'd eat 600 calories at breakfast and lunch, and have 400 calories left over to distribute between two snacks.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast and Lunch

On a reduced-calorie weight-loss diet, you have fewer calories to get all the nutrients your body needs for good health. Leaving out dinner omits one meal opportunity, which means you need to make sure breakfast and lunch consist of healthy, nutrient-rich foods that fill you up without overdoing it on calories. To give your body what it needs, eat mostly fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats.

For example, a 600-calorie balanced breakfast might include 3/4 cup of whole-grain, unsweetened cereal with 1 cup of nonfat milk and a medium sliced banana, along with two hard-boiled eggs and a slice of whole-wheat toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

For lunch, pack in nutrition with 4 cups of romaine lettuce topped with 4 ounces of grilled salmon, 10 chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons of low-fat Italian dressing, eaten with a medium-sized pear and a 7-ounce container of nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt.

Make Smart Snack Choices

The time between lunch and breakfast the next morning is too long to go without eating, making snacks an important part of your weight-loss plan. As with breakfast and lunch, fill your snacks with low-calorie foods that are high in fiber to keep hunger away. When you eat your snacks is up to you. Timing of calorie intake doesn't matter as much as the overall number when it comes to weight loss, according to WeightLossResources.co.uk. You might curb hunger having a snack in the midafternoon and then again around the time you would normally eat dinner.

Good snack options that stay within calorie range include 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a medium apple, a cup of vegetable soup with five whole-grain crackers, a small baked potato topped with 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli and 1 ounce of low-fat cheese or 3 cups of air-popped popcorn with a glass of nonfat milk.

The Pitfalls of Skipping Dinner

Skipping dinner isn't recommended by health care professionals as a way to lose weight. Going long periods of time without eating causes you to become very hungry, which can lead to overeating and either stall your weight loss or cause weight gain. Also, skipping meals may lead to eating too few calories, which for men is fewer than 1,800 calories a day and for women fewer than 1,200 calories a day. Not eating enough slows down your metabolism, which is responsible for burning calories. A slower metabolism means slower weight loss or no weight loss at all.

Dinner also tends to be a social meal, and skipping it might put a damper on plans with friends and family. Instead of skipping meals to reduce calories for weight loss, eat three smaller meals evenly spread throughout the day, plus calorie-controlled snacks as they fit your plan.

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