You’ve probably heard it said that six small meals a day, as opposed to the traditional three, is a great way to boost your metabolism, and in turn, weight loss. It seems to make sense. After all, we burn calories every time we eat and digest (a process known as the thermic effect of food), so why not focus on eating smaller portions, more often? In reality, though, the “six meals a day” mantra is largely a myth. What does matter is total quantity and quality of food—which is why we believe frequent nutritious snacking is still a great idea. Here’s why.
First, let’s look at the science. Dig around for studies on meal frequency and the one thing you’re sure to find is an abundance of conflicting information. Some studies support the concept of a metabolic boost from frequent eating, others refute it, while the vast majority (including this one, published in the British Journal of Nutrition) are neutral, showing that the thermic effect of food is the same, no matter how you divide your daily intake.
If you really want to set your head spinning, read through this roundup of multiple meal frequency studies from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, or this one from Examine.com, and you’ll see how widely the available information varies.
One reason for some of the differing results may be the lack of uniform definitions of “meal” and “snack.” Another may be the lack of honest reporting by participants, a common problem in dietary studies. Ultimately, though, most experts agree that metabolism stays the same, whether you eat three meals or six meals a day.
There is a fair amount of research (also detailed in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s report) supporting the possibility that increased meal frequency has a positive effect on blood markers of health, such as total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and glucose tolerance. Plus, the report suggests that frequent eating may help improve appetite control and feelings of satiety.
In addition to potentially better blood markers and curbed cravings, let’s talk human behavior. The simple fact is that we’re a snacking society. A 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that snacking among American adults increased to 90 percent from 59 percent in the 1970s, and that two thirds of adults snack two or more times a day.
We work and play in a fast-paced world, where convenience rules and often regulates when and what we eat. We’re bound to reach for quick food fixes, but the nutritional value of the nibbles we choose can vary greatly. And while opinions may differ as to the timing of meals and snacks, the importance of eating quality food is irrefutable. Bottom line: the snacks we choose matter.
We’ve determined that whether or not there’s a scientific benefit to snacking, it’s something nearly all of us do. So let’s make sure our snacks are as nutritious as possible.
What’s the key to avoid mindless munching and instead focus on healthy food choices, even on the go? It’s simple enough: planning and prepping snacks in advance. Without an organized snack plan, it’s all too easy to reach for fast food or empty calories. But with a little advance prep work, you can guarantee a good supply of nutritious snacking solutions to keep you energized, no matter how hectic your day.
are a perfect tool to help organize your on-the-go eating—or for that matter, your snacks at home. With interlocking bottles and a convenient carry handle, you can customize one or several stacks of healthy snacks to suit your appetite and your needs. The Expansion Pak jars (in 100cc, 150cc, and 250cc sizes) hold a wide variety of food, and fit easily into your backpack, briefcase or gym bag. Or, you can simply prep and stack snacks to store in the fridge, at the ready for your at-home foraging. Either way, you’ll have healthy snacks right at hand when your hunger kicks in, keeping you from caving into fast-food cravings.