Expert Q&A

Meal frequency: How often should you eat?

Is it better to eat three meals per day or consume mini-meals (five or six meals per day)?

My advice is to eat between five to six meals per day. By eating smaller portions of food more often you will feel less hungry in between meals and not deprived. When people only eat, let’s say, two large meals per day, their bodies go into a starvation mode and try to hold on to calories. By eating every three to four hours you keep your body from storing as many calories (as fat) because your body has a steady supply of food to use for energy. Think of your metabolism as a wood burning fire. If you don’t stoke the fire and add wood at regular intervals, it goes out. The same is true with your body: a steady intake of nutritious fuel at regular intervals keeps your metabolism steady and elevated, your blood sugar stable, and your body operating at maximum efficiency.

Mini-meals should be balanced, containing proteins, carbohydrates and fat. This also helps to maintain steady insulin levels. However, eating more meals is not a license to overeat! Your goal is to eat smaller, nutritious meals that will satisfy your body’s needs. Soon you will begin to notice that you are less hungry overall and you need less food to fill up at each meal.

The easiest way to avoid missing a meal is to have plenty of nutritious foods available such as fruit, yogurt, light cheese, whole grain crackers and bread, and nuts that you can eat when you’re short on time.

Sample day menu


1 egg
1/2 of a whole wheat bagel
2 teaspoons of jam
1/4 of a cantaloupe
1 cup of coffee

Snack #1

Light yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup reduced-fat granola
1 ounce of raw almonds

Grilled Asian chicken salad with light dressing
1 small whole grain roll
Mineral water

Snack #2

1 cup minestrone soup
6 whole grain crackers
1/2 cup red grapes


4 ounces of broiled fish
3/4 cup steamed green beans
1/2 sweet potato, baked
2 teaspoons whipped butter
4-ounce glass of wine

Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN
Contributing Expert

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