are small meals better for weight loss

Solving the dilemma: Are small meals better for weight loss?

April 27. 2022

Splitting the traditional three meals into fewer smaller ones has gained popularity over the years. But opinions are divided and can be separated into two groups. One group of experts say it’s best to have a few small meals, and others say three big portioned meals are better for your weight loss.

The idea behind fewer small meals is that eating frequently helps shrink your appetite and stabilize your blood sugar. This prevents the dips that leave you feeling hungry and results in slimming down more pounds. But is this true?

When trying to lose weight, you’re willing to try everything. That’s why we’re here for you, to solve all the mysteries you can find online. This time our focus is on “are small meals better for your weight loss journey.”

Myth 1: Frequent meals keep your blood sugar in balance

When you eat, your blood sugar levels rise. The idea of more frequent meals is that eating smaller meals can balance those levels, whether fewer big meals will cause extreme highs and lows. That’s partially true because eating more often does keep your sugar levels consistent but consistently high. Your blood sugar levels are high right after you finish your big meal, but only for an hour or so. The conclusion is that people who eat fewer meals have lower sugar levels throughout the day.

Myth 2: Small meals can reduce your hunger

The idea that you’ll be less hungry if you eat more often is the most common one. But evidence from one study tells a different story. People in the study were divided into two groups – one that received three meals per day and the other one that had six. The number of calories in total was the same, yet participants who ate more frequently felt more hungry. The same results can be found in many other studies, so we can conclude that eating more frequently won’t reduce your hunger. If you’re a person with a big appetite that restrains you from losing weight, maybe it’s time to give Full-Feel® a try. It is a supplement that is both an appetite suppressant and fat burner, so you “kill two birds with one stone.”

Myth 3: Frequent meals boost your metabolism

The theories of bigger numbers of smaller meals claim that they increase metabolism because your body is constantly burning calories, and that’s why these eating strategies are best for weight loss. Yes, your digestion is burning calories, but that doesn’t mean it will burn more if you eat more frequently. Losing weight isn’t primarily about calories in and calories out, and the basics of this theory are just that – calorie counting.

Frequent meals may actually cause overeating, so if you feel like you’ve done all the right things and are still struggling to lose weight, don’t get discouraged; now you know what you’ve been doing wrong.

Discussing the pros of several mini-meals a day

Multiple smaller meals per day do sound great – you get to eat more often, and you never let yourself get super hungry or reach that point where you make a terrible decision and grab the first thing you see. The pros of this eating strategy are:

You get to eat more often

As good as it sounds, especially if you’re a food lover, as tricky as it is. You are constantly thinking about what you’re going to eat. Also, planning six or more meals and several snacks for the day can be exhausting.

You won’t get super hungry

Nobody likes the feeling of hunger; you get super sensitive and emotional, and your sugar levels get so low that you get shaky. With plenty of smaller meals, you never get to feel hunger, but it can get out of control because your body can lose hunger cues. But you can keep hunger under control with three meals a day if you eat the right combination of nutrients.

What is actually important

What plays a more significant role in eating is the content, the size, and the timing of the meal you eat. Your meals early in the day should contain lean protein, veggies filled with fiber, and small portions of complex carbs, while meals later in the day should be smaller and without complex carbs. Also, all the measles should be low in fat.

The fact is that any eating strategy works, so what fits your lifestyle will do good. Both ways are capable of producing results.

Timing of your meals

When you eat is a bigger factor in any eating strategy than how many times you do it. If you have your meals scheduled, you’ll manage to sustain yourself from grabbing something just because it’s there. That reduces the total daily calorie intake, which is vital for losing weight.

The content of your meals

In order to lose weight, it’s important your meals are a good combination of lean proteins, fiber-filled vegetables, and complex carbs but in limited amounts. That’s how you can control the calories you ingest and stick to your weight loss plan. Following a 2200 calorie meal plan can make this counting even easier.

The size of your meals

Eating more than three times a day and the sizes of those meals can quickly get out of control. That’s why you should always scale and measure your portions when you pack your meals for the day.

Is the portion size so important for losing weight?

When discussing whether small but more frequent or normal-sized but only three times a day meals are better for weight loss, we can say that the size of those portions is crucial. The best tips on how to control your portion size are:

Use smaller dinnerware

The size of your plates can unconsciously influence how much you eat, and bigger plates can often cause overeating; swapping your usual plates and bowls with smaller alternatives will help reduce the amount of food you eat without even realizing it.

Use your plate as a portion guide

Measuring your food requires time and a food scale, so this is a great alternative. You can use your plates and bowls as portion control equipment. A rough guide is that vegetables should take half a plate, protein and complex carbs should each take a quarter, while high-fat foods should be taken in moderation.

Use your hand as a serving guide

This is another excellent way to set a portion size without additional measuring tools. And hands are a great representation of proportion between body size and the size of a portion that is enough. So vegetables should be a fist-sized portion, proteins should be a palm-sized serving, carbs should be one cupped-hand portion, and high-fat foods should take one thumb-sized portion.

Note: these are measures for servings for women; if you double them, you get a perfect portion size for men.

Take it slowly

Eating fast tricks you, and you get less aware of getting full. Chewing your food not only makes you enjoy the meal more, but you also become aware of when to stop.

Don’t eat food straight from the container

When eating straight from the container, you get lost in how much you ate, and most of the time, you eat until you empty it. Repositioning that food can trick you; you will again eat until you see the bottom of the dish, but it will be less than the whole container.

Use a food diary

Writing down all the food and drinks you intake during the day makes you more aware of how much you eat and can help lower that amount and increase your tendency to eat healthier.

If eating out, ask for a half portion

Eating out makes it harder to count the calories, so this way, you can prevent overeating and save yourself from high-calorie intake.

How to avoid pitfalls of increased meal frequency

Every weight loss clinic will say that any eating strategy that suits your lifestyle, that you can manage down, and that contains all the nutrients will do good for your weight loss journey. A few things you should pay attention to are:

Create an eating schedule

The ideal eating schedule is: you eat when you’re hungry, but not too hungry you can’t stop eating. Eating when you’re not hungry will have your body confused, so it won’t know when you’re full so that you can end that meal. Of course, you should eat even when you feel hungry “off the schedule” because every day is different. However, you must differentiate true hunger from boredom.

Make smart choices

Choosing foods high in fat and calories isn’t going to do any good regardless of whether you’re eating three or seven times a day. The only way to lose weight is to create a calorie-deficient diet.

Practice portion control

Keep your total calorie intake consistent no matter how many times you eat a day.

Final thoughts

All the research, evidence, and data considered show that what’s important is how much you eat rather than how often you eat. Eating more often can turn into all-day grazing. If that happens, you should switch to eating fewer meals.

But if you’re a person that gorges each time you sit down, adding in a snack or two might help manage that.

So, depending on your personality and lifestyle, the number of meals that are better for your weight loss journey, as well as whether these meals should be small and more frequent or big and less frequent, will depend. Schedule a call with our clinic, and with the help of our professional team and a few tests, we will conclude what is best for you.

Nurse Walton


Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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