Which will help me slim down—6 mini meals or 3 squares? I get this question a lot, especially from people who are trying to slim down, because I’m a registered dietitian and nutrition editor of EatingWell Magazine. It’s a common question, especially among dieters looking to get an extra edge on their weight loss.
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Many experts say it’s best to eat mini meals every few hours. The idea behind it is this: eating frequently may help curb your appetite and stabilize your blood sugar—preventing the dips that leave you feeling hungry—which makes slimming down more doable.
But recent research, published in the journal Obesity, suggests that grazing on multiple mini meals won’t promote weight loss any more than sticking to three squares. When overweight or obese dieters spread a very-low-calorie diet over six meals, their appetite and hunger were no different than when they ate the same diet in three daily meals. And, truth be told, these findings support older, similar research.
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So what’s that mean for you? How much you eat is more important than how often you eat. (Find out how many calories you should be eating here.) If eating more often causes you to overeat—say multiple meals turn into all-day grazing—try eating fewer meals. But if you’re a three-meal-a-day person who gorges each time you sit down because you’re so famished, adding in a snack or two, even three, might help.
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Whatever you choose, including fiber—fruits, vegetables and whole grains—and lean protein in your meals and snacks is essential when you’re dieting, as both nutrients provide staying power to keep you feeling full until you eat next.
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