Besides drinking water, making healthy meals ahead of time, and cutting soda, one of the most common weight-loss tips on the interwebs is that eating lots of small meals = major pounds-dropping success.
The theory is that grazing throughout the day pushes your metabolism into beast mode while keeping your appetite in check.
Sounds legit, right? But when it comes down to it, the science backing this theory up isn’t quite as clear-cut as the Instagram success stories.
If you want to give it a go, follow these tips to make sure you’re on track to stay satisfied and lose weight.
Eat Fat, Protein, And Carbs At Each Mini Meal
Small meals need to be balanced just like larger meals, Gans says. That means you need to include a source of healthy fat, protein, and high-fibre carbohydrate into each one, she says.
Some great options include: Greek yogurt and fruit, cottage cheese and carrots and celery, a slice of whole-grain toast with turkey and tomato, whole-grain crackers with cheese and apple slices, or scrambled eggs with veggies, says Natalie Rizzo, R.D. of Nutrition à la Natalie.
Calculate Your Calorie Count For Each Meal
Since the biggest pitfall of eating several meals a day is busting your calorie budget, it’s important to calculate just how much you plan to eat all day before divvying up your meals, says Christy Brissette, R.D., president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. First, estimate the number of calories you need in a day, and then divide that by five or six (depending on how many meals you want to eat) to figure out how many calories you should be consuming at each mealtime. So if your calorie goal is 1,500 per day and you eat six meals a day, each mini-meal should be about 250 calories. Though your calorie needs really depend on your goals and your activity level, a dietitian can help you make sure you’re on the right track.
Eat Each Meal Less Than Four Hours Apart
If you’re eating frequent, small meals, timing is super important, says Brissette. You should never go more than four hours without eating, she says. So if you have breakfast at 6 a.m. that means your next meals will be before 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m., and 11 p.m.
Make Everything Ahead Of Time
You know that prepping healthy meals and snacks ahead of time keeps you from resorting to vending machine chips and fast food when you’re hungry and in a rush, and that’s especially important when you’re eating six meals a day, says Brissette. She likes to prep on Sundays by baking chicken breasts, cooking whole grains and beans, chopping up veggies and fruit, and portioning everything out into containers so you have healthy options on the go. And for those times you’re fresh out of healthy, portioned options, “Keep unsalted nuts and seeds in your purse, bag, or car, so you always have a healthier alternative when you’re hungry,” she adds.