Busting the three-meals-a-day myth
For years, we’ve had mixed messages about when we should eat, whether it's breakfast, lunch and dinner at set times, lighter meals peppered throughout the day or a strict no-snacking policy.
As a society, we have a lot going on in our daily lives: balancing work with home life, fitting in hobbies, squeezing in travelling and seeing friends, as well as making room for some downtime. Factoring rigid mealtimes into these already hectic days can leave us feeling pressured and even more stressed about our eating habits.
But with conflicting research about the benefits of meal scheduling on our health, it could be time to stop worrying about when you eat, and start focusing on what you eat.
Is timing everything?
“The things that matter are what you’re eating and how much you’re eating,” says Dr Luke Powles, Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics. “Daily calorie intake and the quality of your food are much more important than the time and frequency.”
So it doesn’t matter really if you choose to squeeze those calories into a 10-hour window or spread them throughout the day across six light meals. Just keep them healthy and within the calorie allowance.
The well-known guide is that men should aim for around 2,500 calories a day to maintain their weight, while the figure for women is around 2,000 calories (although these may vary depending on age, metabolism and exercise levels).
Eat well for your body and mind
The much-celebrated Mediterranean diet, which includes a lot of fresh vegetables, fruits, olive oil, beans and fish may lower the risk of developing heart disease and stroke11.
But eating also affects our mental wellbeing: there is evidence that oily fish, with its omega-3 fatty acids, can help boost a low mood2, so try to include some mackerel, tuna or salmon in your weekly meals.
Don’t worry about skipping breakfast
The old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is not necessarily true – skipping breakfast may not be a cardinal sin after all.
A recent study found eating breakfast had no discernible benefit for obesity-related anthropometrics (measuring the size and proportions of the human body)3, which is good news if you run on empty until lunchtime.
So we don’t need to eat three meals a day. The only rules are: eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat too much, and always have a varied and healthy diet that’s crammed full of fruit and vegetables.
By following this simple advice, you can take your eye off the clock, fit your meal and snack times around your busy day and, most importantly, focus on savouring every nourishing bite.