Small, Frequent Meals –
What’s The Real Score?
Ms. Mergynette Mercado, Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian
May 11, 2017
Nowadays, people are becoming more health-conscious — from what food they eat to when they eat it. Over time, some have speculated that healthy eating should not only focus on the quality of one's food but on one’s meal timings as well. More than ever, meal frequency has gained increased focus and attention.
Smaller-quantity, frequent feeding is a dietary management strategy characterized by eating small meals and snacks every set few hours throughout the day. For example, instead of eating 2 cups of rice for lunch, you distribute this to a cup of rice and 2 healthy snacks after. It can also be a full mid-morning breakfast with small meals/ snacks every 3 hours following it.
“But will this dietary regimen benefit me?” you ask.
People with special conditions have been observed to benefit from this diet. These include, but are not limited to, people with eating disorders, digestive disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and other non-specific nutritional problems like bloating, heartburn, dysgeusia, etc. The strategy allows the body to digest the food effectively and absorb the nutrients efficiently. Furthermore, the increased frequency of smaller meals throughout the day also helps stabilize blood sugar by preventing sudden spikes and crashes of an individual's blood sugar levels. Eating more meals, but in smaller portions, will help keep you satiated and reduces your potential of bingeing at the next meal.
Even with strategy's potential benefits, people should still consider proper meal planning. The timing of meals and the quality of food consumed is as important as the amount of food you eat. If not carefully planned, it may lead to an overconsumption of calories and/or potential weight gain. Careful planning and preparation is needed to execute such a strategy flawlessly; while more time-consuming to prepare for, with proper guidance and determination, it will become a healthy habit.
Given the pros and cons of this type of dietary management strategy, my advice is for you to find the eating pattern that works best for you. If consuming five to six (smaller) meals a day works well for you, go for it. If eating three full meals fits your schedule and/or personality then keep on doing that. Stick with whatever works for you – just make sure to be aware of your total calorie allotment per day and its macronutrient breakdown. For example, a fiber-rich snack can help keep you full longer than small bars of chocolate. Other than meal frequency, the quality as well as quantity of the food items you are consuming should also be factored in.
Keep in mind that there is no one-diet-fits-all plan. A successful diet plan is one that caters to your needs and goals. More importantly, for your plan to be sustainable, it should be enjoyable as well.
Feel free to drop by Aegle Wellness Center and have our nutritionists guide you on creating your personalized meal plan.
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