Eating Less and Often: Does It Help Control Weight?
Having a hard time resisting the urge to snack between meals? Maybe it's time to give in.
Some studies suggest that eating smaller, more frequent meals than the standard three meals a day may actually help control weight, according to the May issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.
With four to six smaller, but regularly spaced meals, you may keep yourself from becoming ravenously hungry and overeating at the next meal. Eating more often also helps give you energy throughout the day. Athletes in particular tend to eat frequent high-carbohydrate, low-fat meals to boost their energy. Researchers speculate that even for the rest of us, eating frequent small meals is more compatible with a physically active lifestyle than the habit of skipping earlier meals and eating a larger one in the evening. In fact, skipping breakfast is associated with a greater prevalence of obesity.
But the potential downfall of frequent meals is that poor choices and too many calories may promote weight gain. If your frequent meals are dictated by your mood and what's in the vending machine, you may be overeating and not getting the proper nutrition your body needs.
While there's no clear consensus on how timing and frequency of meals affect body weight, one thing is certain: a calorie is still a calorie. No matter when or what you eat, your total intake is the most important factor in controlling your weight. If snacking on healthy foods in sensible portions throughout the day helps you control your total calorie intake, snack away. It may just be the useful tool you need to help manage your weight.