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Do Small Meals Throughout the Day Truly Promote Weight Loss?

By Dana Yarn, RDLD

eating small mealsWe have been recently trained to think that eating mini meals and snacks throughout the day will increase your metabolism, stabilize blood sugars and promote weight loss. This concept may work for some but it may actually be counterproductive for others.  If you eat mini meals all throughout the day and your insulin levels are climbing and dropping you may end up feeling like you are hungry and unsatisfied all of the time.  Find what works for you, if three meals work for you then great, if you are more of a grazer then you may benefit from 3 meals and 3-4 snacks throughout the day.  Listen to your body and hunger cues and you will find what works for you.  Some "quick fix diets" that promote grazing and low calorie and low fat foods will trick your body into starvation mode.  This results in initial weight loss but it will not last long term and you could end up gaining more weight after you get off of the diet or hit a plateau.

A great way to get in tune with your natural hunger cues is to keep a food journal for 1-2 weeks.  Jot down the food you consume, time of day you ate and how you felt before, during and after the meal or snack, notice I did not say anything about counting calories.  Try to recognize daily emotional patterns, if you get super hungry at night it could be that you are not consuming enough calories and healthy fats throughout the day and your body gets cravings at night to make up for the lack of calories and good fats.  Or if you feel like you have to have something sweet in the late afternoon maybe you are suffering from a drop in insulin due to excessive sugar/artificial sweeteners (diet sodas), starch or carbohydrates at lunch time.  Consider adding more protein and fats at lunch while reducing your carbohydrate consumption to avoid a spike and drop in insulin, this will reduce your sugar cravings in the afternoon.

I love to analyze human behaviors, especially the behaviors of children.  Think of a skinny child in your life and observe their eating habits, they eat what they want off of their plate and then they go play.  They could be begging for a snack 90 minutes later or on the other hand they eat a huge breakfast and barely touch their plate at lunch.  Children are naturally in tune with their hunger cues and their appetites increase and decrease with activity levels and growth spurts. They don't make themselves sickly stuffed and lounge around on the couch, they eat, play, eat, and play. If you fuss at your children to finish their entire plate beware you could be leading them to an entire life of finishing their plate which down the road could lead to obesity. Encourage them to finish their vegetables (the most nutrient rich item on their plate) and take polite taste of everything else.  They should feel comfortable leaving food on their plate or cleaning their plate if their body desires a large amount of food. This will help them from overeating in the future as an adult.

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