6 Mini-Meals or 3 Squares: Which is Better?

Grazing, or breaking up your daily calories into five or six small plates of food throughout the day, has its advantages over sitting down to the traditional three square meals. But a recent study found a big disadvantage to this style of eating-it leaves you hungry for more.

When you don't feel good, whether it's from something as simple as a sore throat or cold, or as complex as chemotherapy, it can be hard to eat anything more than a small meal, if that. Frequent mini-meals, spaced just a couple of hours apart, can help keep your energy up and the food down during those times when you'd just as soon not eat anything at all.

Past studies have also shown that eating smaller, more frequent meals, in place of three larger ones, lowers blood cholesterol levels and helps stabilize blood sugar. That's a consideration for anyone who is eating to beat heart disease or diabetes. If you have either of these health concerns, you might want to discuss this style of eating with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

A study published in a September 2010 issue of the professional journal Obesity puts mini meals in a different light, however, at least when it comes to dieting and weight control. The researchers followed 27 overweight and obese men who were placed on calorie-restricted diets and ate their meals either three times a day or six times day. One group was given a high protein diet and the other a diet that contained a normal amount of protein. Both groups had similar experiences, except when it came to the end of the day. In the high-protein group, those who ate three full meals a day were less hungry in the evening than those who ate six mini-meals.

The researchers concluded that sticking to three square meals a day is better for overall appetite control than grazing. Late night snackers, if you're watching your weight, take heed!



Leidy, H, et al. "The Effects of Consuming Frequent, Higher Protein Meals on Appetite and Satiety During Weight Loss in Overweight/Obese Men." Obesity, 16 Sep 2010 Web. 12 Oct 2010.



University of Illinois, McKinley Health Center. "Diabetes and Cholesterol." 9 Jun 2010. Web. 12 Oct 2010.