Concorde Blog - Jul 9, 2019
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. There are more theories and notions of how to accomplish that than there are varieties of food, of course. But, in the interest of keeping our Concorde students, faculty and associates healthy and happy, we thought we'd look at the ages-old debate between small frequent meals vs. fewer big meals and increase health care awareness.
In the nutritional world, conventional wisdom suggests that the more often you eat, the more likely you are to burn off those calories and control hunger pangs. Therefore, the notion of eating six or more "mini-meals" each day, just enough to fuel your body and tide you over, often has been recommended as a more waistline-friendly dieting approach than eating three larger meals. But as science and health care awareness evolves, this theory becomes more and more blurred.
Health care awareness re: small frequent meals vs. fewer big meals
"In the '80s, grazing was thought to be an optimal way of losing weight â¦ but human studies did not support this at all," said David Levitsky, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell, in the CNN.com article. "It was thought that if you ate more frequently, the number of calories you retain would go down and more calories would be burned. But controlled experiments in humans show that there is no metabolic advantage to eating 12 smaller meals versus eating three or four meals per day, with the same total number of calories."
In fact, some research suggests that eating even fewer than three meals might be best in terms of controlling calories. In one study, when individuals skipped breakfast, they consumed about 400 fewer calories for the entire day.
Health care awareness for small, frequent meals
Some people simply don't have large appetites, according to Martha McKittrick, a registered dietitian. Still others, such as new mothers, have lifestyles that make a grazing style of eating a better fit. Health issues might also dictate which style of eating is best. People who have diabetes or hypoglycemia can feel shaky, tired and weak if they go too long without eating. Others with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux might feel better eating smaller meals. The same might be true for senior citizens.
Health care awareness for three bigger meals
Experts say eating more frequently might be problematic for those who have trouble with portion control.
"The bulk of the evidence suggests that humans are opportunistic eaters," Levitsky said. "If we are given more chances to eat, the more we will eat.
"If people did nothing other than eliminate snacks, their total calorie intake will go down."
There also are those who simply don't want to make eating an all-day affair. They're busy with other things and don't want to deal with it, so three meals a day might be better for them.
Health care awareness for the individual
The bottom line is that either style of eating can offer health and weight-loss benefits. The optimal timing of eating might depend on various factors unique to each individual. What matters most is what will work for you.