I get the question a lot: Is it better to have 3 meals and no snacks, or 6 small meals a day? As you may guess, there really isn’t a simple answer. Here’s what we know.
When it comes to weight control, the bottom line is calories-in vs. calories-out. If you eat more calories than you burn, then you will gain weight. You could do that with 3 large meals or with 6 small meals.
For general health and wellness as well as disease prevention, I think a regular eating schedule is the best bet. For me that usually involves eating breakfast within 2 hours of getting up, along with having snacks in the mid-morning before lunch and in the afternoon before dinner. Most of the time, you will need a snack if you are going more than 4 hours between meals.
We have all been in the situation where we’ve waited too long to eat and haven’t had a snack. When it comes to the next meal you are so hungry you think you might eat your arm! Or as I say it, “my stomach is eating itself!” I try to avoid putting myself in this situation because as a result I often overeat the next meal.
Snacks can help by making sure that you don’t get so hungry that you make a poor decision at your meal time.
Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Snack?
When you choose to snack, it’s important that you make a healthy choice. Of course there are many healthy snacks. However, they don’t usually involve chocolate, potato chips, or ice cream. And they rarely come from a vending machine! Remember that snacking is an opportunity for you to get more healthy phytochemicals in.
From reading my blog, you probably remember that phytochemicals come from plants. So eating snacks from the fruit, vegetable, whole grain, nut or bean group will add in more phytochemicals to your day. Here are some healthy snacks that I make sure to keep at home and at work:
- Whole Grain Fig Newton’s
- 100 Calorie Pop-Corn Packs
- Fresh Fruit
- Low Sodium v8
- Wasabi and Soy Sauce Almonds
- Carrots with Dip
Or you can print this list out for your fridge or work bulletin board:
Be sure to keep stocked up with your healthy snacks. When you’re in a hurry and don’t have a meal planned, it just takes 3 or 4 snacks and that can be your meal. Be sure to put these on your grocery list that I recommended in my previous blog and you will be set!
Happy and Healthy Snacking to You!
I make meals and snacks and blend each with liquids for my husband taking chemo and radiation for his esophageal/stomach cancer. He is a diabetic with 30% kidney function so potassium and sodium, calcium, have to be limited. He lost 30 lbs. before anyone could diagnose the cause and 10 lbs more since then, a month ago. The dietician said he needs 2500 cal. But he can get only so much down at a time eating/drinking every couple hours, adding olive oil and heavy cream. I try to limit fiber, watch carbs, too. It’s trying, esp. when all tastes like cardboard, but he drinks the meals and snacks, including using Glucerna Advance for diabetics. We monitor weight daily and input by number of meals and snacks, and output daily. What else can we do?
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
Hey Vickie, I’m sorry to hear about your husband. I think you are doing a great job. I would hope that his weight is stabilized with all of your efforts. Has there been any discussion regarding the placement of a gastrostomy tube to help get more nutrients in? You are certainly making the best of it and being very creative. He is lucky to have such a great caregiver on his side. – Julie