“Eat three meals plus one to two snacks a day” is what I usually recommend to all my patients. But a recent study presented at the American Diabetes Conference last weekend had me thinking that perhaps this is not the best advice—for a split moment, that is.
Researchers from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague had 54 people with type 2 diabetes follow a calorie-restricted diet plan consisting of either six mini meals or two large meals: a breakfast between 6 and 10 a.m. and a lunch between 12 and 4 p.m. Both groups ate the same number of calories and macronutrients and lost weight after 12 weeks, but the two-a-dayers experienced a greater decrease in body mass index.
Interesting, but this study was rather small and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The length of the study was also too short to tell if this weight loss would last in the long haul.
Plus I don’t think eating two meals a day is at all reasonable for the majority of Americans. Everyone has different sleep habits and work routines, and for some, that could mean not eating for at least eight hours or maybe more. I don’t know about you, but I would be starved and probably rather cranky. Furthermore we are a society that spends a lot of time around a dinner table either in our homes, restaurants, or parties, and forgoing being social and connecting with others is not what I would recommend in order to lose weight.
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That said, this study does reinforce two important things: 1) Breakfast should not be skipped, especially if weight loss is a goal. 2) Grazing all day is not beneficial to weight loss. There is a difference between grazing and planned snacks, and the latter is what I teach my patients. If they were to have a huge gap between their meals, then a mini meal (such as low-fat Greek yogurt and berries) would be ideal. The emphasis, though, needs to be on the “mini” and not for them to treat their snack as another complete meal. I think that is where some people go astray and are not successful with losing weight. Grazing can be synonymous with mindless eating and can definitely be a deterrent for slimming down.
So I am going to continue with my recommendation because I have had patients that could consume too many calories even on only one meal per day.