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The bottom line is it’s not about the meals but the calories consumed in a day.Eating small, frequent meals can take the edge off your appetite. But which is better for controlling your waistline – eating three square meals a day or grazing?
New research contradicts previous studies touting the benefits of eating many mini meals throughout the day. In fact, findings support a return to three meals a day, but there’s a healthier approach from the days of old when dinner was the big meal of the day.
“Three meals a day is going to be more workable,” according to Madelyn Fernstrom, diet and nutrition editor for the TODAY Show. “When you translate it to real life, this could be a good way to go – hearty breakfast, medium lunch, and then a lighter dinner. Or you can mix and match, as long as you keep the calories low.” This approach can easily reduce your calorie intake by 500 per day, which translates into about a pound a week weight loss.
Moving away from “grazing” – constantly grabbing something to eat during the day the minute you feel the slightest twinge of hunger – is something many dietitians can get behind. And the medical literature supports that idea, too, as past research has suggested that eating more meals throughout the day does not necessarily result in more weight lost.
Grazing all day long may not be the best. A lot of people think if they want to lose weight they should spread meals out; eat constantly. But the more you graze, the more you tend to eat. And this can often lead to more calories per day.
How Can You Make the Most of Your Daily Eating Habits?
A good eating plan is only as successful as the person who is able to stick with it. Most nutritionists agree that the most successful formula for maintaining a healthy weight includes:
- Portion control
- Balance of calories consumed versus calories burned off
- Daily breakfast
- Regular eating pattern (whether that means three or six times/day)
- A healthy balance of complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fat
- A good night’s sleep
But perhaps most importantly: know what works for you, and choose an eating strategy that you can really, actually stick to. One of the take home messages here – a 500-calorie reduction in intake, regardless of how you do it, results in weight loss.