If you’ve been researching weight loss, you’ve probably encountered the strategy of eating five small meals each day. Some people even suggest six. The key is to eat promptly when you get up, and go no more than three hours without eating.
Why Five Small Meals Per Day Works
While this won’t work for everyone, it can be a very good strategy for some people, particularly those with busy, stressful lives. The reason for this is that your body produces a hormone called cortisol in response to chronic stress. Cortisol is associated with causing excess belly fat. Typically the more cortisol you have, the more abdominal fat you have.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study indicating that people who ate small mini-meals spaced three hours apart each day actually decreased their cortisol levels by 17%, in comparison to those who ate the same amount of food in only three meals per day. This change in cortisol levels took place in only 14 days.
So to lower your body’s cortisol levels, and reduce belly fat, just plan on eating a healthy small meal five times daily, spread three hours apart. For example, eat a mini-meal at 7 am, 10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm and 7 pm.
Reduces Cravings and Blood Sugar Spikes
In addition to the cortisol benefits, eating every three hours smoothes out blood sugar levels, reducing the spikes that trigger hunger and junk food cravings. Many people report that choosing to eat 5 small meals per day is difficult, because they feel like they’re eating a lot of food – even when the total calories they eat are limited. Some doctors feel that this type of eating plan is perfect for a diabetic diet, as well.
“I find my energy is sustained better by eating this way.”
What is a Mini-Meal?
Anything you would normally eat on your regular weight loss diet can be a mini meal. Just watch portion size – you’re aiming for about 300 or less calories per meal (possibly 400 if you’re over 220 pounds AND active.)
Skip all processed food as much as possible. You’re looking for quality real food here, from natural sources such as lean meats, eggs, dairy, fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains.
What to Eat to Lose Weight
Make sure your first meal contains protein. Greek yoghurt, eggs, fish, beans or lean meats work. A protein smoothie can be fast and easy. We recommend hemp, rice, pea or whey protein powder for your smoothies. Read the label – be careful of added sugars and calories.
Protein Smoothie Recipes
Good Morning Protein Smoothie
2 tablespoons protein power
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
½ cup frozen berries
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Antioxidant Protein Smoothie
2 tablespoons protein powder
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 ½ cups seedless red or purple grapes
½ cup blueberries
1 teaspoon flaxseed oil
6 ice cubes
Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake
2 tablespoons rice protein powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons peanut butter
3-5 ice cubes
Planning Your Weight Loss Meals
One of the keys to success with a mini-meal plan is to plan ahead. Make it easy to grab and eat your next small meal. Prepare batches of soups, salads, and other meals that can be easily portioned out in small servings. Remember to drink a full glass of water just before each meal – it helps in many ways. Feel free to drink more water during the meal, or enjoy a cup of green tea for even more weight loss impact.
Make sure one of your meals contains healthy fats. A salad with dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, canned salmon or an avocado would work.
Do a fiber check. Does today’s menu include high fiber fruits such as apples, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or beans, peas and other legumes, or grains such as flax?
There are lots of recipes online. Check out this salmon burger and other recipes.
The Psychological Factor
You’re used to seeing a lot more food on your plate, so ensure you choose small plates and reassure yourself that if you’re still hungry, you will be eating again soon.
Americans are accustomed to huge portions that stretch out our stomachs, so expect it to take a couple of days to adjust to this new style of eating. You’ll soon find you feel full, satisfied, and less sluggish as you adjust to the five meals per day diet program.
Ensure you take a multivitamin and vitamin D every day, and enjoy the healthy changes in your body as it learns that the next nutritious meal is only three hours away.