We were brought up to think three square meals and maybe one snack was the ideal meal pattern for all Americans to avoid weight gain. But is this true?
The simple answer is no; everyone is different. Only you know your schedule and what works best. Remember skipping meals or snacks can cause overeating later in the day and may even slow down your metabolism (the rate that you burn food as energy). When designing your personal meal pattern, here are some things to remember:
- Find a meal pattern that fits within your schedule. Try to eat meals around the same time every day and breakfast within one hour of waking up. This will boost your metabolism for the rest of the day. It’s OK to only eat snacks instead of meals. If you choose this option, you can package snacks into small bags and eat on the go.
- Be aware of portion sizes. Eating too much during meals and snacks can cause weight gain. Follow the serving sizes on food labels and make sure not to make each snack into a meal.
- Listen to your cues. If a coworker brought an unhealthy snack to work, ask yourself “If that was an apple, would I still want to eat it?” If no, then it is a good idea to avoid it.
Whether eating six small meals or three meals and two snacks every day, the pattern you choose will be the perfect meal schedule for you.
Annie Lin, MS, is a clinical nutrition candidate and dietetic intern at Rush University Medical Center.