What Time Should You Eat Breakfast & Dinner?

Everyone's daily schedule is a little bit different, so the ideal breakfast and dinner times for one person may not work at all for another. The good news you have plenty of flexibility as to when you can healthfully eat your morning and evening meals. Even so, there are some times that are better than others for your health and your waistline.

Eating a morning meal shortly after you wake up can prevent hunger later. Credit: Metkalova/iStock/Getty Images

Eat Soon After Waking

Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass recommends eating breakfast within an hour of waking up. You're literally breaking a fast with your first meal of the day, and if you wait too long to have it, your metabolism may slow, your energy levels could drop and you might overeat when you finally do decide to chow down. If you're never hungry in the morning, eat just a snack or a very small meal and then have a nutritious "second breakfast" several hours afterward.

Eat Hours Before Bed

There are a few reasons why it's a smart idea to eat your dinner at least three hours before bedtime. For one, eating a meal will raise your blood sugar levels, which can interfere with deep and healthy sleep. Lying down after eating also raises the risk that you'll experience heartburn or acid reflux. In addition, having a big meal at night may interfere with weight-loss efforts. In 2013, the journal "Obesity" published the results of a study showing that overweight women who ate 200-calorie dinners lost more weight and more inches off their waists than women who ate 700-calorie dinners, even though the two groups ate the same number of total calories each day.

At "Normal" Times

Your circadian rhythms dictate when you're naturally hungry and active, and they should also inform when you eat your meals. According to a study scientists conducted on mice that was published in the journal "Obesity" in 2009, eating meals during the "wrong" times -- which is during daylight hours for mice and would be during dark hours for humans -- can and does contribute to elevated weight gain. So if possible, eat breakfast after the sun has risen and eat dinner before or shortly after sunset.

Being Flexible

If you work an overnight shift and sleep all day, your breakfast and dinner times are obviously not going to match up with those of someone who puts in a normal nine-to-five routine, and that's OK. It's most important to make sure you eat something for breakfast soon after rising -- rather than skipping it altogether -- and that you find a meal schedule you can stick to that feels comfortable and sustainable.

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