What’s best, three large meals or several small ones?

Many people ask if there is 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. Here one of our dietitians provides an answer.

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 glucose and 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.

What does the research say?

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.

It really 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.

Choose an eating plan that works for you

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. Check out our factsheet for more helpful tips. 

Don’t forget to exercise

If you are looking for ways to boost your metabolism and fast track your weight loss the only sure way to increase your metabolism is to get active! Diabetes Queensland recommends that you try to fit in at least 30 minutes of physical activity 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 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.

If you have a question about your diabetes management, nutrition or physical activity experts call our helpline on 1800 177 055. Our team of experts are here to help.

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