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Breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you've always thought that tucking into three meals a day is the best way to eat, then you're not alone. But there is evidence to suggest that eating smaller, more frequent meals could be more beneficial for our health.

What are the benefits of eating smaller meals?

Most of us have been brought up eating three large meals a day, but scientific studies have shown that changing how often we eat could help control weight gain. Research suggests that eating smaller, more frequent meals could be linked with a better diet quality and a healthier body weight. As part of one recent study, adults who had several small meals each day tended to weigh less, than those who had larger, fewer meals throughout the day. Those that ate fewer meals were also likely to drink alcohol with their meals and consume more at night. Researchers said these factors could be why these people had higher body mass indexes (BMI). BMI is used to measure a person’s weight compared to their height. Another study by Duke University suggested that exercise and eating smaller meals more often could be the key to an efficient metabolism. The research showed that over time, overeating could change our metabolism. Deborah Muoio PhD, who studies metabolic diseases at Duke believes that the evidence shows that eating smaller amounts, more frequently could keep chronic diseases like diabetes at bay.

What is the best way to eat smaller meals each day?

This may sound obvious, but changing eating patterns after a lifetime of eating the same way could be more difficult than you first think. Follow these steps to help you on your way:

  1. Split your daily calorie intake

If you’re planning on eating more meals, work out how many calories you need each day. Divide your calorie intake by the number of meals you’ve decided to eat so each meal contains roughly the same amount of calories. For example, if you’d like to eat 6 meals a day and need 1500 calories, each meal should contain around 250 calories.

  1. Time your meals

When you’re used to eating at certain times each day it can be challenging to change your eating habits. Schedule when you’re going to have your first meal and plan your other meals around this. You have more meals to eat in the same time frame so it may help to space mealtimes evenly. It’s common for many people to eat their meals three hours apart. So, if you have your breakfast at 6am eat your following meals at 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm.

  1. Eat a balance of nutrients

Having smaller portions often leads to people restricting their diets. Don’t fall into this trap. Include a wide range of food including fruit, vegetables, whole grains and foods rich in protein and fibre. Sources of protein and fibre like eggs, nuts, nut butter, beans and lentils may help you feel fuller for longer.

  1. Watch your portion sizes

If you’re eating more often to lose weight, take notice of how much you eat. It’s easy to get carried away. Make sure each meal contains the right number of calories to avoid overloading on your daily intake. Weigh your serving sizes and read nutrition labels so you can be sure you’re not eating too much.

So, it’s possible that eating six times a day could help keep your energy levels stable. It could also help keep your hunger at bay, which can stop you from overeating. If you want to try eating more frequently remember to control your portions and eat a diet full of nutrients.

A guide to planning your meals  How to get the most nutrients from your food Shop our Food & Drink range.

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