No doubts – most of dieters know what routines lead to healthy weight loss. Eating small meals brings productive results and considered to be as a powerful element to cut extra weight. However, is it so? Let’s find this out today.
For example, a 2014 study presented at Society for Endocrinology's annual conference reveals that the frequency of meals doesn't result in any more calories burned at the end of the day. For the study, researchers asked 24 lean and obese women to eat two meals per day or five meals a day on separate days. Both meal routines had the same number of calories. The researchers revealed that both obese and lean women shed the same number of calories over a 24-hour period no matter how many meals they ate that day.
On the flipside, a 2015 study found that, generally, individuals who ate six times or more per day ate fewer calories, had a lower body mass index, and ate more nutrient-rich food sources than those who didn't eat at least six times a day.
Despite the unclear science, this strategy can work in your favor, says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. Gans says some of her customers have benefitted from eating five or six small meals a day, particularly women who wait way too long to eat and end up overeating because they’re so OMG hungry. "Smaller meals throughout the day aid curb their appetite, so they're are less likely to go overboard," she says.
Gans says her clients who have achieved success with a mini-meals plan add in small snacks between breakfast, lunch, and dinner once or twice a day, rather than treating each snack like a real meal, she says. If you’re on team graze or just want to give it a go, follow these tips to make sure you're on track to stay satisfied and cut weight.
Eat protein, fat, and carbs at each small meal
Small meals need to be balanced just like larger meals, Gans explains. That means you need to add a source of healthy fat, protein, and high-fiber carbohydrate into each one, she says. Some great options are: Greek yogurt and fruit, cottage cheese and carrots and celery, a slice of whole-grain toast with turkey and tomato, whole-grain crackers with cheese and apple slices, or scrambled eggs with veggies, shares Natalie Rizzo, R.D. of Nutrition à la Natalie.
Track your calorie count for each meal
Since the main pitfall of eating several meals a day is busting your calorie budget, it's vital to calculate just how much you plan to eat all day before divvying up your meals, says Christy Brissette, R.D., president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. First, estimate the number of calories you need in a day, and then divide that by five or six (basing on how many meals you want to have) to find out how many calories you should be eating at each mealtime. So if your calorie goal is 1,500 per day and you eat six meals a day, each mini meal should be around 250 calories. Though your calorie needs actually depend on your goals and your activity level, a dietitian can assist you make sure you're on the right track.
Have each meal less than four hours apart
If you're eating regular, small meals, timing is super important, explains Brissette. You should never go more than four hours without having food, she adds. So if you have your breakfast at 6 a.m. that means your next meals will be before 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m., and 11 p.m.
Prepare everything ahead of time
You know that preparing healthy meals and snacks ahead of time keeps you from resorting to vending machine chips and fast food when you're hungry and in a rush, and that's particularly important when you're eating six meals a day, shares Brissette. She prefers to prepare on Sundays by baking chicken breasts, cooking whole grains and beans, chopping up veggies and fruit, and portioning everything out into containers so you have health-friendly options on the go. And for those times you're fresh out of healthy, portioned options, "Have unsalted nuts and seeds in your purse, bag, or car, so you have a healthier alternative all the times when you're hungry," she adds.