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The Upside of More Than 3 Meals a Day continued...

People who regularly eat breakfast tend to weigh less than those who skip their morning meal. They also get more nutrients like vitamins D, B12, and A. They may even be more likely to resist food cravings and make better food choices, especially when protein is part of the meal.

If you start off your day with breakfast, and then continue eating every 3 to 4 hours, you’ll provide your body and brain with a steady stream of nutrients so you don’t go overboard at mealtime.

How to Snack the Right Way

If you’re going to go the mini-meals route, your biggest danger is eating too much.

“As long as you choose good foods and keep portion sizes in check, frequent grazing can help you lose weight and keep cravings at bay,” Jamieson-Petonic says. The simplest strategy is mixing portion control with protein and fiber to fill you up. Plan nutrient-dense snacks like these:

  • Fresh fruit with low-fat cheese
  • Raw veggies with 1/4 cup hummus or tzatziki sauce for dipping
  • Whole-grain crackers with 1 ounce of low-fat cheese or one tablespoon of nut butter
  • 1/4 cup trail mix with nuts, dried fruits, and whole-grain cereal
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh berries

Whether you’re grazing throughout the day or having the standard three meals, getting the most nutrient bang for your calorie buck is key. So avoid “junk” foods that are easy to overeat (processed foods, refined carbs, sugary drinks).

Instead, fuel up on protein and high-fiber carbohydrates. Both fill you up without weighing you down, Kirkpatrick says.

If you have trouble controlling portion sizes, or you don’t have time to prep healthy snacks, you may be better off with the old three-meal-a-day plan.

What Matters More

The number of meals you eat doesn’t matter as much as what you eat, Kirkpatrick says.

Fill your plate with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.

Quality, calories, and portion sizes ultimately make the difference.

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