Eating six small meals a day instead of two or three larger ones is a weight-loss strategy that works for many people because it helps to control your hunger. To be successful with a six-small-meals-a-day plan, it's helpful to do some meal planning and try to stick to a structured eating schedule.
If you want to lose weight, try eating six times a day. If you choose nutrient-dense mini meals and snacks every two hours, you’ll feel full and satisfied all day long.
Benefits of Eating Six Meals
Chances are, when you think about how to eat to lose weight, you think fewer meals, not more. The problem with limiting yourself to eating fewer times each day is that you get overly hungry by the middle of the day, and then all bets are off.
Eating six times a day might sound counterintuitive, but it's a strategy that Harvard Health says works well for many people. As long as your meals are small and about half the calories of full-sized meals, eating six times a day is an easy way to stay full and satisfied throughout the day, so you're less likely to binge at night.
Plan What to Eat
Planning the right meals and snacks is important when you're trying to eat six small meals a day. Because your meals will be small, it's important that they're also filling. Meals based around vegetables, fruits, and protein will be nutrient-dense and low in calories, but also filling.
To plan your meals, figure out how many calories you need to lose weight. For most people, that's about 500 calories less per day than what they're currently eating. Divide that into six for the calorie goal for each meal. It doesn't have to be exact. You might prefer three slightly larger meals and three slightly smaller ones, and that's OK.
- A two-egg vegetable omelet
- An apple with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 2 cups of salad greens with 2 ounces of chicken breast and a tablespoon of dressing
- 1 cup of sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with 1/4 cup of hummus
- 3 ounces of salmon with 2 cups of roasted vegetables
- 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with 1 cup of berries
When you're eating six meals a day, it's helpful to set an eating schedule for yourself. The major benefit of a six-meals-a-day schedule is that you can plan to eat before you're actually starving. Eating on a schedule also helps to keep your energy level up throughout the day.
A study published in Annals of Medicine in January 2016 found that eating on a regular schedule was one of the eating habits frequently reported by successful weight losers, along with eating more vegetables and fewer sweets.
Try to eat your first meal within an hour or so after you wake up, and then eat about every two hours after that. It's important that your six-meal schedule works with your lifestyle, though.
If you have to eat lunch at a certain time because of your work schedule, or you know your dinner will be late because of a family commitment, you may have to tweak your schedule a bit to accommodate those things.
The important thing is simply to try to spread your meals out as evenly as you can throughout the day so you can control your hunger and stay energized.