You're not alone if you're confused about what to eat. One year eggs are unhealthy, the next, you hear it's okay to eat them, yolks and all. Well, if what to eat is sometimes exasperating, there's also how often you should eat. Is it better for weight loss if you eat three meals a day, or 6 smaller ones?
Let's first tackle your frustration with not knowing what to eat due to conflicting reports. The bottom line is, eat foods that are found in nature, focusing on vegetables (an equal mix between lightly cooked and raw), some fruit, some nuts and seeds, some antibiotic- and nitrate-free, minimally-processed animal protein, and even some eggs. Do this 90% of the time and you're bound to enjoy good health and steady energy.
Maintaining steady energy is key to preventing weight gain. Many times, weight gain occurs because of cravings. Meals that don't have enough fiber, which is abundant in vegetables, often lead to cravings for something salty or sweet. Binge eating arises from meals that don't have enough fiber or protein and too much starch.
Eating foods that are minimally-processed at most and have just a handful of ingredients at most with plenty of fiber is a solid first step to preventing binge eating episodes.
But how many meals should you eat? Similar to conflicting reports about various foods, there's also conflicting advice about how often to eat.
New research suggests that, at least for obese individuals, eating three meals a day of equal calories is the most beneficial for weight loss.
Hormones that control hunger and tell us to stop eating do not function properly in obese individuals. Eating three meals at normal breakfast, lunch and dinner times with no snacks in between enables the hunger-satiety hormones, ghrelin and leptin, to better signal the brain, according to new research.
A small experiment at the University of Missouri, Columbia concluded that not only does eating three balanced meals a day better cues the brain that satiety has been achieved, it also helps lower triglyceride levels.
The researchers reported that hunger was not an issue, except when the meals consisted of liquid. Liquid meals are not as filling as regular, whole-food courses.
So, does meal frequency matter? Maybe not much as long as insulin resistance is not an issue (someone with Type 1 Diabetes, for example). But you probably don't need to eat as often as you think you do, or as often as you've been told.
If you're eating a balanced, low-glycemic diet, your blood sugar levels will not fluctuate, even if you go 4 or 5 hours in between eating.
There's also another school of thought about eating three meals a day. Rather than eating three meals of equal calories, some people advocate the adage, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper." This means that breakfast is the highest calorie meal of the day; dinner has the least calories.
Many people, though, don't have time to make a high-calorie breakfast.
The best thing to do is experiment. How do you feel after you eat three equal calorie meals? If you feel like you have rock steady energy, it just might mean that 3 square meals a day is just what the doctor ordered. Keeping a food journal is one excellent way to discover what works best for you.