When it comes to dieting, most people agree that less is more. Fewer calories. Fewer grams of fat. And, fewer sugary treats.
There is, however, one dieting philosophy that presents a notable exception to this rule: more meals. Yes, many people claim that eating more frequently can actually help you drop those pesky pounds.
The reasoning behind this is that eating six small meals a day—as opposed to the traditional three big meals a day—will help you better manage hunger and fight cravings while maintaining your energy levels and keeping your metabolism active.
Makes sense, right?
Of course, in order for this method to be effective in your weight loss plan, you have to do it right. How can you make sure you don’t eat too much during your meals? What foods should you eat, and when? How are you going to find the time to eat six meals a day? Lucky for you, we’ve got some tips that will help as you figure out how adding more meals to your day can actually help you lose weight.
Set a schedule that works for you.
Set specific meal times that are evenly spaced and that work for your day. Don’t rearrange your life to fit in your meals; rearrange your meals to fit in your life!
In general, try to eat a meal when you first wake up, mid-morning, at lunchtime, mid-afternoon, at dinnertime, and between dinner and bed. If you need help remembering to eat, set an alarm or a reminder on your phone. For a low-tech solution, a well-placed sticky note (or two) will do just fine.
Focus on the calories.
Before you start eating six meals a day, take a minute to think about your calorie intake. What is it at currently, and what does it need to be at for you to lose weight? Knowing this number will be important when it comes to planning your meals, as you’ll want to try to space your calories evenly among your meals.
You’ll also want to get familiar with the calorie amounts in your favorite foods. True, there are some things you’ll just have to give up altogether, since they have too many calories to fit into your small meals. But chances are, you’ll be able to keep eating some of your favorite foods, as long as you adjust the portion size.
Just like you would plan your three meals a day, plan your six. It makes life much easier if you don’t get caught without a plan at mealtime (that’s when you’ll be most likely to grab an unhealthy option, or to overeat!).
As you plan your meals, take into account all the nutrients your body needs to function best. That means a good amount of protein, fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, grains, fiber, and healthy fats.
And consider functionality. Your favorite low-calorie soup may make for a tasty treat, but probably isn’t the most optimal on-the-go meal.
Don’t leave out your supplements.
If you’re taking supplements to help with your weight management goals—here are some of our favorites!—keep taking them as you eat your six meals.* Couple them with any of your six meals or plan to take in-between if that’s what the product label indicates. Always follow serving sizes or other instructions as indicated on the product label.
Pre-prep your portions.
Overeating can be the downfall of the six-meals-a-day plan. The key to success with this plan is sticking to small meals. Of course, that can be hard to do if you’re eating foods right out of the package. Instead, portion your foods out beforehand. Use plastic baggies or plastic food storage containers to keep portions separate, and you’ll enjoy the “grab and go” convenience of having your meals ready when you are.
Get creative with your meals.
As you try to fit in six meals a day, you might find it helpful to get a little creative with what you consider a “meal.” When you’re controlling your calories and eating more often, what is typically considered a “light snack” is usually indicative of how much you’ll be eating.
A small plate of vegetables and hummus, for example, might be one of your meals. A few cups of lightly salted popcorn with a handful of peanuts might be another. These things can be eaten in the car, at your desk, or on the couch with a magazine. When you start to think about what your meals might consist of, you’ll realize that you can more easily fit them into your day.
Weight loss doesn’t have to be about depriving yourself of any and all food-related joy. You only have to know when to eat, what to eat, and how much to eat. Eating six small meals a day could help you reach your weight loss goals, without feeling hungry.
Sure, less is usually more, but this is one case where more (meals) could actually lead to less (weight)! Good luck, and good health!