Smaller meals mean fewer calories…Maybe.
If you have health problems, discuss this and any dieting plans with your doctor or dietician. They can help individualize your plan to your disease condition.
One of the most common myths I hear is that it is better to eat 5-6 smaller meals rather than three larger meals. I am going to preface what I am about to say that some dieters may benefit from smaller meals, and there is some evidence that people with diabetes do better with multiple smaller meals, which may help lower the insulin surge and stabilize blood sugar levels.
I have had many experts tell me that it is better for those dieting to eat six or more small meals rather than three larger meals. They base this on the belief that if you keep the blood all on nutrients that are slowly absorbed and at a steady state, it will keep your metabolism higher and burn more fat. I have also heard that it will keep you full by always having some food in your stomach. This myth and both explanations are complete garbage unless it works for you as an individual.
Calories are calories to a certain extent. You have to have a calorie deficit to lose weight. You cannot stoke the metabolic flames with anything less than exercise and building muscle mass.
- One study divided subjects into two groups, with one that nibbled or snacked and the other that ate large meals. It found that snacking and eating large meals did not affect the two groups’ weight loss.
- Another study looked at one group that ate 3 large meals per day versus another group with 3 smaller meals with 3 snacks. The calorie intake was the same. The meal frequency did not make a significant difference in the weight loss of either group.
Truth: The number of meals is less important than the quality of food. I recommend that you fill your meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. If eating more smaller meals helps you deal with your personal hunger level, go for it. Ultimately, you need to monitor your portion sizes to ensure that you keep your diet balanced and that there is a calorie deficit.
The bottom line: It is the quality of food and monitoring calories and portion sizes that make the biggest difference. Multiple meals do not always help, but especially if you eat too many calories.
- J. D. Cameron, M.-J. Cyr, and É. Doucet, “Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet,” Br J Nutr, pp. 1098–1101, Nov. 2009, doi: 10.1017/s0007114509992984. [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114509992984