How many meals should I have in a day? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions when you talk to people about nutrition. For many, eating more frequent meals means eating more calories and gaining weight. For some, it may be easier to control energy intake by reducing the number of meals and snacks, while others have no problem with eating more often during the day. Indeed, scientific data from intervention studies do not favor one over the other. It is worth emphasising, though, that under some medical conditions meal frequency is an important factor for health outcome (e.g. diabetes, adiposity).
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 4-5 meals per day, including a breakfast. Because caloric distribution during the day affects our health, it is further recommended to avoid a strong concentration of energy intake in the later time of the day. Evenly distributed energy intake is best. Moreover, this pattern favors better weight control and body composition.
And finally, regularity in our meal pattern needs to be reconsidered as well. Those of us who tend to have irregular meals, i.e. lack some structure in their diet, face a higher likelihood to experience negative impact on body weight and composition.
- Raynor et al (2016) Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.10.031