Ask the expert: Should I eat three large meals a day or several smaller meals?

Healthy U reader, Joe Connor from Strathpine asked "Is there any advantage to eating regular small meals during the day (e.g. five to six meals) versus three main meals per day for weight loss. Even if total kilojoule intake is the same?"


Diabetes Queensland's newest Dietitian Alison Bennett responds:


What a great question Joe! Some health professionals recommend eating several small meals a day to help in weight loss, the idea is that feeding your body regularly keeps your metabolism pumping and helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels and your hunger levels. Others recommend three meals a day is a better way to control how much you eat, suggesting that if people are given the opportunity to six meals a day they are more likely to overeat.


Unfortunately, despite a lot of research on the subject the jury is still out on which is the best option. A number of studies have compared the effect of feeding individuals the same amount of food in three meals or in six meals and have found no significant difference in weight loss (or weight gain). Interestingly, one study showed that people eating six small meals a day were more likely to feel hungry throughout the day than those who ate three large meals.


I believe that it comes down to the types of foods you are eating and the amount of kilojoules that you are eating over the entire day rather than how often you are eating. At the end of the day, weight loss will occur if the amount of kilojoules you are eating is less than the amount of kilojoules that you burn throughout the day. So if you find that you prefer to eat six small meals a day, go for it. But if you find that eating lots of small meals means that you're more likely to eat more than you really need then maybe sticking to three meals a day is a better choice for you.


If you are looking for ways to boost your metabolism and fast track your weight loss I can let you in on a little secret; the only sure way to increase your metabolism is to get active! Diabetes Queensland recommends that all Queenslanders are physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. If you can manage it, being active for 60 minutes will do even more to kick start your metabolism and support weight loss. In addition, doing some resistance exercises like those shown in the February edition of Healthy U can also help to build your muscle mass, and the more muscle mass we have the higher our metabolism and the more kilojoules we burn without even trying.


Do you have a question for Diabetes Queensland's nutrition and physical activity experts?

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