We've all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that skipping meals can slow down our metabolism or that we need to eat every 3 hours. While not all of these claims are necessarily true, eating regular meals can be a simple strategy to regulate our hormones, support our metabolism and control cravings and binges.
If you are a visual learner, check out my recent YouTube video below, where I unpack why eating regular meals is essential, or read on to learn more.
First- what does "Eating Regular Meals" look like?
The truth is that this can look different for everyone. For the most part, I do advocate that we all need to eat at least three meals daily to make sure we are meeting all our nutrient needs.
Whether we choose to snack is up to us; it can depend on our lifestyle, work hours and personal preferences. For some people, they like to have three meals and two snacks each day; for others, it might be six small meals, and for some, they don't choose to snack at all.
I like to have three meals and two snacks most days, but sometimes this varies. It's finding what works for you and your lifestyle.
The SIX Reasons why eating regular meals is important
Regular eating is essential for maintaining stable blood sugar levels throughout the day, and this helps keep food cravings under control. Skipping meals or going too long between meals can cause our blood sugar levels to plummet, triggering cravings for high-energy, high-carbohydrate, or sugary foods. While missing a meal occasionally is not a concern, continuously restricting or skipping meals can disrupt our hunger and fullness signals. If you have been a chronic yo-yo dieter, building a regular eating pattern can help your brain relax and realize there is no famine or food shortage coming. This will prevent the brain from ramping up hunger signals and turning off fullness signals, often leading to binge eating or overeating. Having a regular food intake throughout the day, eating every 4-6 hours with snacks in between, can keep blood sugar levels within a normal range and prevent excessive hunger. Blood sugar levels fluctuate naturally throughout the day and are impacted by the type of food we eat. Missing a meal causes blood sugar levels to fall and triggers cravings, often leading to overeating or choosing higher-calorie foods instead of having a balanced meal. This causes blood sugar levels to rise quickly and then drop, leading to an up-and-down rollercoaster cycle. While we can't change our brain's response to fluctuating blood sugar levels, we can control when we eat and how our bodies respond to our eating patterns.
Eating regular meals can improve gut health and support regular bowel movements, making you feel better. As a dietitian, I often help clients with gut issues. Regular meals stimulate the digestive tract, but too much snacking can be counterproductive. It's essential to find a happy medium. When people break their routine, such as when on vacation, they may experience gut issues, so maintaining a consistent routine is beneficial.
Eating regular meals helps you stay energized. Food is your body's fuel, and without it, your mood, performance, and tasks suffer. If you're trying to make positive lifestyle changes, such as healthier eating, going to the gym, or cooking at home, you need energy to achieve them. Without energy (food), your goals are impacted.
Eating regular meals prevents overeating. Skipping meals to cut down on calorie consumption is a common mistake. It may seem like a good idea to skip lunch before a big dinner or follow a strict diet all week to indulge on the weekend, but this can lead to overeating at the next meal due to hunger. Calorie restriction can catch up with you, so it's essential to maintain a consistent and balanced approach to your eating habits.
Eating regular meals encourages self-control and confidence. Hunger affects our decision-making. To improve our health, we must set goals and stick to them. Eating regular meals helps us control our hunger and choose healthier options. Use the hunger and fullness scale as a guide (0-10) to avoid extreme hunger or fullness. Notice how it feels to be at 5 or 6 and use it as a guide for portion sizes and snacking choices.
Eating regular meals can help with sleep. Sleep is crucial for our health, but many of us eat a big meal before bed or overeat due to hunger at the end of the day. This affects our sleep quality, and regular meals throughout the day can help avoid late-night overeating and improve sleep. Structured regular meals are a habit of successful people, and people who eat regular meals tend to do better than those who snack all day.
Thank you for reading!
Maria is a registered dietitian in Ireland and Bermuda. She is passionate about making diet and nutrition education accessible to all. We hope you enjoy these recipes, and please reach out and let us know if you make them. Dietetic appointments and services are available online; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Corporate wellness and health promotion services are available online in Cork, Kerry and Dublin.