Myth #1: Eat Smaller Meals

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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 3 larger meals.  I am going to preface what I am about to say with some dieters may benefit from smaller meals and there is some evidence that diabetics 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 6 or more small meals rather than 3 larger meals.  They base this on the belief that if keep the blood all on nutrient 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.  

Research:

  1. One study divided subjects into two groups with one that nibbled or snacked and the other ate large meals.  It found that snacking and eating large meals made no difference in the two groups’ weight loss[1].  
  2. Another study looked at one group that ate 3 large meals per day versus another group with 3 smaller meals with 3 snacks[2].  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. 

For me, it is the quality of food and monitoring calories and portion sizes that makes the biggest difference.  Multiple meals does not help me.   

Footnotes
[1]Bellisle, “Meals and Snacking, Diet Quality and Energy Balance.”
[2]Cameron, Cyr, and Doucet, “Increased Meal Frequency Does Not Promote Greater Weight Loss in Subjects Who Were Prescribed an 8-Week Equi-Energetic Energy-Restricted Diet.”
Bellisle, F. “Meals and Snacking, Diet Quality and Energy Balance.” Physiology & Behavior 134 (July 1, 2014): 38–43 [PubMed]
Cameron, JD, MJ Cyr, and E Doucet. “Increased Meal Frequency Does Not Promote Greater Weight Loss in Subjects Who Were Prescribed an 8-Week Equi-Energetic Energy-Restricted Diet.” The British Journal of Nutrition 103, no. 8 (April 1, 2010): 1098–1101 [PubMed]
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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