Three Meals Vs. Grazing—How Should You Eat?

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I’m not the type of person who believes in all areas there is only black and white in life.  Most of the times I live in the grey area, appreciating there are many ways to see things, and I respect different opinions on topics.

 

However, in one way I am pretty rigid.  In reality, there is a right and wrong way to eat.  And, I am not referring to the foods you choose to eat; there are many different diets out there and nearly all of them are correct for some individual.  I am instead referring to the timing of meals, not what they contain.

 

It is very important that you eat three meals a day, and do not do “grazing” as we say in the States; that is, eating little bits of food many times throughout the day.

 

Why is it important to eat three meals and not many small meals?   Let’s go over those multifactorial reasons.

 

First, the intestinal tract is happiest when it is at rest, just like your heart.  In your blood pressure, the second number, the diastolic is the more important number, because it is the pressure of your heart at rest, and when it is high, physicians are more concerned than if the first number, the active heart is high.  Your brain will fall to pieces if it doesn’t get good rest and sleep.

 

Same with your intestines!  Food moves through your stomach and your small intestine via the nerves called the migrating motor complex (MMC).  The MMC is active in-between meals, starting about 90 minutes after eating, and during sleep at night.  So, to get a good movement of food through the intestine promptly and efficiently, and help sweep it clean, there has to be hours during the day when nothing is added to your stomach.  If you eat every couple of hours, stomach and gut, the MMC will not be well activated, and intestinal movement will be markedly slowed down.   Eating three meals with 5-6 hours between them gives your MMC free reign to work, enhancing your gastrointestinal movement and keeping your gut healthier.

 

Not eating from supper to breakfast allows for MMC movement, intestinal rest, and is a little intermittent fast (next month’s topic!).  Growth hornone also comes out during the night, as well, if there isn’t food in your gut, and that helps us heal and strengthen your muscles and tissues.

 

Second, eating larger meals means you can feel fuller and eat less calories overall.  Eating a little meal and snacking repetitively throughout the day is a good way to eat too many calories and add on weight.  If you are an 18 year old male who works in construction, okay, you might need to snack!  Also, children usually need to snack.  But, most of us are older, have desk jobs, and aren’t that active throughout the day. Sure, we work out, but regular meal food should cover that well.  It is simply harder to keep an eye on total caloric intake when snacking, especially because if you feel the need to snack the temptation for something sweet can easily kick in.  That adds guilt to your day, if you break your diet for something not nutritious.

 

Third, the adrenals, pancreas and liver don’t like grazing!   Eating a good, satisfying meal, with protein, fat and a little bit of carbohydrates is a great way to have solid energy throughout the hours until your next meal.  Food is broken down slowly and gradually, keeping glucose numbers steady and energy consistent.  Instead, by only eating a little bit, you can feel your energy drag down after 1 or 2 hours and you feel you need to eat again, and you may be craving sweeter or higher calorie foods.

 

Many people with low blood sugar feel they need to eat frequently throughout the day.  This is a terrible way for them to eat!   When the blood sugar goes down, it is a strain to the adrenals that has to secrete cortisol, and the pancreas that has to secrete glucagon; both these hormones signal the liver to make glucose.  Eating small meals repetitively throughout the day and feeling lows fed with food means those three organs are being stressed continually on a daily basis.

 

If you eat larger meals and have good energy and glucose from meal to meal, it can help your adrenals, pancreas and liver rest and recover and be strong and healthy.  Plus, you will feel a steady energy throughout the whole day.

 

Four, eating three meals a day is best for glucose control.  The more insulin has to come out, the more insulin resistant you become.  Eating less often and less carbs means less insulin is secreted during the day, and it’s easier to lose weight.  If you are injecting insulin, covering snacks is difficult; if you do not, glucose goes up, if you do, there is a risk of hypoglycemia due to stacking meal and snacking insulin doses.  Same if you are some oral hypoglycemic medications.  Eating three meals is the best way to control glucose numbers and help reverse prediabetes and diabetes.

 

Like many things in life, food is a blessing!  We should be thankful for the food we have to eat. However, blessings can become curses if they spin out of your control and take over your life. In reality, who wants to have to eat all the time?  There is so much life to live and enjoy outside of eating.    Snacking is an American invention that gained popularity from the early 1900s, but most cultures of the world simply have historically eaten three meals a day.  When I was young, hungry and waiting for dinner, my parents told me to not eat, as it would ruin my appetite for dinner.  Today, people seem to feel eating all the time is acceptable and necessary. It’s not!

 

The human body is amazing and can easier work well without food for hours at a time.  It’s important to learn to eat filling meals that take breakfast to lunch, lunch to supper and supper to breakfast.  The healthiest body is the one that is fed well three times a day and doesn’t need to snack!

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