The healthiest time to eat is when you are hungry and haven't eaten in a few hours. Many people experience hunger in the mornings, after having had a long period without food while they slept. It's common to experience it again in the early afternoon and evening. It's important to eat when your body tells you to, rather than eating out of habit. What and how much you eat tend to be more important than when you eat.
Don't Fear Hunger
When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, timing of your meals isn't as important as your total calorie intake. Whether you eat 2,000 calories in six meals or in three is not important. But if 2,000 calories is your daily calorie goal, it's important to not go over that and gain weight, and not go under that and risk nutritional deficiencies. Your body has a very complex system of hormones and chemicals that will signal to you when you should eat -- hunger is a signal that the system is working, so eat only when you get that signal.
Your Schedule Matters
Eating your food each day should not be a stressful experience. If you try to wolf meals down when you're running late for a shift or in the car on the way to pick the kids up from classes, you are likely to run into problems like indigestion and a lack of satiety -- you won't feel full or satisfied because your attention was elsewhere. This leads to greater likelihood of snacking and overindulgence. The healthiest time for you to eat is when you have a window in your schedule and can sit down and be mindful of your meal.
Nutrient Timing for Training
If you are very active and exercise at high intensity, timing your meals or snacks can be important. Timing the entry of particular nutrients into your bloodstream can impact your metabolism, hormonal patterns and overall performance during exercise. According to Ryan Andrews of Precision Nutrition, you should include nonstarchy carbs, protein and healthy fats at each meal. Andrews recommends eating dense carbohydrates -- such as starchy vegetables, grain foods and cereals -- only during the three hours following exercise.
The Evening Meal
Overeating at night is a common problem. This is due to eating a very large evening meal or snacking after your meal on treats like ice cream or cookies. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Weight Loss Clinic recommends eating a small meal at night and making breakfast your biggest meal of the day instead. Eat a balanced evening meal that is satisfying, and remove high-calorie snack foods from your home to reduce temptation. Replace them with healthy, low-calorie options such as vegetable sticks or low-fat yogurt.