Snacking vs 3 Meals a Day
Snacking vs 3 Meals a Day
3 square meals a day or constant snacking? Although having a meal at breakfast, lunch and dinner is the traditional eating pattern for many people, increasingly busy lifestyles has evolved this to suit eating on-the-go. Many studies have tried to prove which is better for us in terms of health, weight loss and keeping hunger at bay; but most have found there to be pros and cons of both.
Eating 3 balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day should provide the right amount of nutrition and energy to sustain you for 4-6 hours, without feeling too hungry in between. This is an advantage over snacking, which is less likely to leave you feeling satisfied and result in overeating and potentially weight gain. See our recipes page for healthy meal ideas!
Many people find themselves feeling hungry between meals, and resort to snacking. This can be a problem as the snacks we crave are often fatty, sugary or salty and should be avoided by those trying to lose weight. A healthy snack such as fruit or nuts should be enough to keep you going until your next meal. Another way to avoid unhealthy snacks between meals is to drink plenty of water and try not to rush your meal when you eat. Keeping hydrated and eating more slowly makes you feel fuller quickly, so you are less likely to overeat.
Have a break, have a…carrot
Having a long break between meals allows your body more time to digest your food compared to snacking on foods every 2-3 hours. Eating at regular times each day should also promote healthy digestion, as it is more difficult to get into a routine when snacking alone. Another advantage of eating 3 meals rather than snacking is that eating more frequently does not encourage the body to burn the fat it has stored for energy; therefore it will not necessarily help you lose weight. However, it has been shown that eating every few hours can be shown to boost metabolism. The theory is that the more frequently you eat, the more calories you burn as your body burns energy when you digest food.
Skip rope, not breakfast…
If you are trying to lose weight, eating fewer than 3 meals a day will make it more difficult to control your appetite. This means that starving yourself is not the answer as it is important to give your body energy to be able to function properly throughout the day. On the other hand, some research has suggested that eating fewer than 3 meals a day is a good way to control calories. You may think that skipping breakfast will lead to overeating throughout the day, but even if it does, your calorie intake is not likely to exceed the amount you skipped. Studies in ‘Nutrition Reviews’ found no correlation between frequency of eating and how much people weigh. Weight loss is more conclusively related to what you eat and the amount of physical activity you do. Overall, you just need to use more calories (or energy) than you are taking in if you want to lose weight. See our exercise blogs for tips on becoming more active!
It was a snack-cident
Regular snacking through a little-and-often approach can help keep energy levels stable throughout the day and reduce the peaks and troughs in your blood sugar levels which cause hunger. On the other hand, you can balance blood sugar levels just as easily by eating 3 meals a day as eating every 2-3 hours, if you choose the right foods. When eating patterns were studied by researchers at Queen Margaret’s University in Edinburgh, it was found that regular grazers actually had healthier diets than those eating 3 meals a day. This may be because snacking can give you more opportunities to get a variety of nutrients from lots of different food sources. When the body is fed every 2-3 hours, if the meals are small and healthy, the body won’t store any fat from those meals so, in theory, you should have energy all day but never gain any weight; but there is limited evidence to support this.
Some people naturally prefer grazing, while others favour 3 set meals a day. If you plan your meals, it is less likely for you to snack on junk foods your body doesn’t need. It is ultimately based on lifestyle and personal preference, so what works for you might not work for someone else. Whether you snack or eat 3 meals a day, it is more important what you are eating (types of food and portion sizes), rather than when you eat, if you are looking to improve your health or lose weight.
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