Weight loss: Should you eat 3 big meals a day or several small meals? – Times of India

Weight loss

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When going on a weight loss diet, apart from what we eat, it is also essential to figure out how many times we eat and what is the portion size of each meal. Mostly, people divide their daily diet into three broad meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, in recent years, more and more people are switching to frequent and smaller meals, especially when trying to lose weight. Many celebrities are also changing their eating patterns in favor of eating small, frequent meals. Let’s find out what works the best!

Eating small and frequent meals can come with several benefits. It will avoid extreme hunger since your meals are timed frequently – such as eating every three hours. You may also feel that your metabolism has improved. Eating frequently will prevent you from overeating during your next meal since you would not be “too” hungry at any time of the day. Frequent meals can also help in stabilizing blood sugar and prevent dips in energy throughout the day.

Studies suggest increased meal frequency can reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers have also found that people who eat small, frequent meals have better cholesterol levels than those who have less than three meals a day.
A 2019 cross-sectional study compared eating less than three meals per day to eating more than four meals a day and found that the latter had increased HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol which reduces risk of heart disease.
However, when it comes to weight loss, researchers are divided. A University of Ottawa study found that on a low-calorie diet, there was no weight loss advantage of six meals over three meals. Another study found that eating six meals a day actually made people want to eat more.
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Meals eaten frequently but with a smaller portion size may be suitable for some people and may not work for others. The best way to figure it out is to give it a shot and see if this meal-plan works for you. A review published in Nutrition in Clinical Practice found that 6-10 meals throughout the day may benefit people who feel full with small amounts of food, who have problems in digestion and experience bloating, nausea or vomiting.

If your goal is to lose weight, it is important to stay within your daily calorie limit and divide the calorie requirement among the total meals in a day. Another noteworthy point is that your small meals should not consist of processed foods and snacks.
Even though smaller, frequent meals are trending, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. On the other hand, eating three, proper meals in a day will ensure you eat fewer calories and you’re likely to feel full and satiated for a longer time after eating a wholesome meal. Mini-meals may not work for people who are too busy to plan and prepare too many meals. On the other hand, taking time out for three proper meals can encourage mindful eating with a plate full of different flavours and nutrition. The downside is that your weight loss journey can be hampered if any of those meals is processed food with high sugar or salt contents.

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Based on the several clashing studies, there is no particular eating pattern which is definitely better than the other one. Both of these can work for you, if your primary focus is calorie deficit and healthy and mindful eating. Once you improve your relationship with food, you will understand how often you really need to eat and what works best for you.

Avoid eating food along with television or scrolling social media. These distractions will not let you eat mindfully and you’ll lose track of how much you have eaten or at what point your hunger is satiated.
For a healthy diet, focus on eating natural foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Eat a protein-rich diet with foods such as lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. Lastly, avoid junk food with added sugars, trans fats, and saturated fats.
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