How to Eat 5 Small Meals a Day

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on August 15, 2014
2 min read

I'm a chef (and a mom). You might think that eating frequent meals wouldn’t be an issue.

I understand the concept: Five small meals a day takes the edge off your appetite, evens out blood sugar levels, and keeps your energy steady. But I confess: I don’t always eat this way.

Although my fitness trainer encourages me to eat healthy food every few hours, my meals usually look like this: coffee, a bit more coffee, lunch at 3 p.m., dinner at 9 p.m. I start over again the next morning.

When I decided to change this habit, I found that doing these five things helped:

  1. Plan ahead. Five meals a day equals breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. To do this right, you need to plan what you’ll eat every day for each “meal.” And you need to schedule eating every 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Stock up. Face it: You’re going to grab whatever food is closest. So stock up on veggies, fruit, healthy carbs, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
  3. Go for taste. Choose snack foods that will sustain you and taste good. Remember, healthy food can be satisfying.
  4. Whip up a smoothie. Blend fruit, milk, yogurt, and a little honey for a sweet, filling snack packed with vitamins, fiber, protein, and calcium.
  5. Combine carbs and protein to stay full longer. Try whole wheat toast with peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg; whole-grain pasta with olive oil and cheese; or oatmeal with fruit, milk, and honey. Or make yourself a big pot of soup (like my Tuscan chicken soup) to heat up for lunches or snacks.

Makes 6 servings


2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp chili flakes

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

1 14.5-ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes, crushed

2 halves or 1 full boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium Yukon Gold potato, diced

1 can no-salt Italian white beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 to 3 stalks red chard, cut into 1-inch pieces, tough ribs removed

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 ribs celery, diced

3 Tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large pot on medium heat, saute garlic and chili flakes in olive oil.

2. Add broth and tomatoes, and stir.

3. Add chicken. After about 5 minutes, add potato and gently boil about 15 minutes.

4. Add beans, chard, carrots, and celery, and simmer a few more minutes. Don’t overcook.

5. Ladle soup into warm bowls. Top with parsley, Parmesan, and salt and pepper.

Per serving: 270 calories, 23 g protein, 34 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 24 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 321 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%