What about weight loss and metabolism benefits? Hand says that research analysts from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have synthesized years of research on adult weight management to form nutrition guidelines. One topic they've analyzed is the effect of regular meal and snack patterns on weight loss. "Several studies show that eating four to five times per day (meals or snacks) is associated with reduced or no obesity risk," she says. The research also shows that the three squares a day could actually hurt your efforts to reach and/or maintain a healthy weight. "Eating less than three meals or snacks per day may increase the risk of obesity," says Hand. "But the risk goes up when people eat six or more times per day, too."
Physiologically, it does make sense: "When you eat regularly throughout the day, your body knows that more food is on the way, and it's more likely to burn the calories you consume than store them as fat," Hand explains. She also says that eating at regular intervals may help stabilize blood sugar and energy levels. But as far as the rest of the health claims are concerned, well-researched proof is lacking. So, while eating more often throughout the day appears to help with weight control, it "could potentially benefit your health, but not necessarily," says Hand.
If five to six meals a day sounds appealing to you, try it. If not, stick with what works for you, but don’t stress. Enjoying three squares a day is a perfectly healthy way to eat, and there are far more important things you can focus on, besides meal frequency: like how much food you’re eating in general. One thing to try, if you don't snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon, is to incorporate small snacks along with your three daily meals—but watch that you don 't exceed your calorie allotment for the day. Continued ›