With Jenelle Croatto APD
How often should I eat?
It’s a question I’m sure you’ve pondered: from six-meals-a-day to the latest dietary craze of ‘intermittent fasting’, it’s no wonder we’ve all become a little bamboozled over something as simple as eating food.
The six-meals-a-day approach may work for some, but in practice it means you’ll need some pretty impressive organisation skills, and let’s face it, sometimes just getting dinner on the table in a timely fashion is a win for the day!
Perhaps the greatest difficulty I see in this approach lies in the need to reduce meal size. While the intent may be to have six small meals, what I usually see is people eating three regular sized meals, plus three snacks! So, unless you’re an elite athlete or actively trying to gain weight, this approach certainly has its challenges when it comes to weight loss or maintenance.
While there are no hard and fast rules as to when we should eat, I am a fan of sticking to the time-honoured tradition of three meals a day. This style of eating is deeply entrenched in our culture, and for the most part I think it works well, particularly if you attend school or spend your day at work.
While children need snacks in between meals to support growth and meet nutritional needs, most adults will do just fine with three main meals. By eating wholesome balanced meals, the aim is to comfortably fill you up and get your mind off food.
What about snacks?
If you feel like eating in between meals, just do a quick body-scan before snacking to see if you’re truly hungry or are perhaps eating for others reasons such as boredom, procrastination or even thirst.
Keep in mind that a little bit of hunger is not a bad thing. It actually means your body will turn to using stored energy, rather than utilising the energy coming in from that snack you had at close reach.
The bottom line is to be smart with snacks. Have healthy wholefood options such as yoghurt, fruit, nuts or a wholegrain muesli bar on hand, to eat if you have more than two hours before your next meal, and have real, rather than perceived hunger.
Ms Croatto is a qualified dietitian and nutritionist.