The ‘How’s and ‘Why’s of Eating 5 Meals a Day

5 meals a dayThink about this.  When your children were babies how often did they eat?  Most babies I know eat every couple hours.  In fact, as a new mother it’s sometimes difficult to feed them that often but that’s when they were hungry.  As they started to grow, didn’t it seem like they were always eating?  Not big meals,  more like grazing.  Then doesn’t it seem reasonable that eating 5 meals a day is natural? We actually had to be trained to go to 3 larger meals a day.

There’s this big debate out there as to which is better for you if you’re trying to get healthier and lose weight.  Just eat 3 meals a day or eat smaller meals 5-6 times a day. Sometimes when I tell people to eat 5-6 meals a day many people freak out. They say I’ll be as big as a house if I eat that much.  We’re not talking meals.  I like to say 3 meals and 2-3 healthy snacks. If you’re eating first thing in the morning and then every 2-3 hours you’ll find it the most effective way to keep your metabolism going strong and to ensure that your energy levels remain constant throughout the day.

Combined with a good strength training program, eating 5-6 times a day will quickly transform your body into a lean, toned, fat-burning machine.

Here are the major benefits of eating 5-6 times a day:

  • more energy
  • less hunger
  • reduced food cravings
  • control blood sugar levels & insulin production
  • reduce body fat storage
  • maintain & increase lean muscle mass

Obviously, it takes a good amount of planning, preparation, and persistence to get into the habit of eating this frequently. A good idea is to prepare your food well ahead of time. One thing I like to do is when I cook a dinner, I make extra meat and veggies for later.  Then I portion them out and put them in containers for my lunches for the next couple days.  It makes it really easy to eat healthier lunches.

Every meal should contain lean protein, good carbs ,and healthy fats in about a 40:30:30 ratio. No, it’s certainly not “easy”, but once you get into the habit of preparing your meals in advance and eating delicious, healthy food every few hours, you’ll see some amazing changes.

The other thing I do if I’m in a hurry and just don’t have time is have a meal replacement shake for one of my meals and maybe even one of my snacks for the day.  Sometimes I make it into a smoothie and other times just by itself.

What Happens When You Skip a Meal or a Snack?

  1. Your body’s metabolism slows down to make the food/fuel you gave it hours ago last longer.
  2. Your blood sugar drops, leaving you feeling cranky and light headed.
  3. You overeat at the next meal, to make up for the dip in blood sugar.

Benefits of Eating Five Times A Day

When you eat five times a day, you have:

  1. Less hunger and less overeating
  2. More energy and a more positive outlook
  3. More stable blood sugar
  4. Less cravings for unhealthy foods

I’ve learned that when my body keeps its blood sugar level, I have plenty of energy. I don’t get overly hungry at any point during the day, so that I do not overeat at meal time.
It is easier for me to eat healthy meals than healthy snacks. I had to work a little harder to find quick, healthy snacks.

Tips for Eating Five Times a Day

  1. Make sure there is protein or fiber in every snack or meal.
  2. Eat a reasonable portion, using your hands to measure your portion size.
  3. Plan your meals and snacks for the day by putting them in reusable Tupperware or Ziploc bags.

This is why I’ve made a conscious decision to eat every few hours.  It wasn’t easy at first, but now I love it.  If you have any ideas that have helped you eat more often healthy food please pass them on.  I’d love to share them with all our friends.


  1. RavieNomNoms says

    I didn’t used to eat 5 times a day and now that I do, I feel the best I have felt in years! I started doing it on a detox this past February…I have more energy, I have lost weight, and I don’t get as hungry anymore. It helps to drink lots of water too. Eat more and lose weight?! Sign me up!

    Great post!

    • says

      It’s so true but such a hard concept to teach. People are sure they’re going to gain more weight if they start eating more often. If they do it right they’ll do like you and end up eating more often, fill satisfied and in the end they’ll eat less and lose weight.

    • Dianna Brown-Smith says

      Can you give me some suggestions as to what I can eat? Finding things that are not fattening is hard.

  2. says

    If all of us North Americans could just reduce our expectations of what “meal” should look like (much, much smaller than most of put on our plates), then the concept of eating 5 times a day wouldn’t seem so “extreme!” Now that my lunches and dinners are smaller, I really look forward to my snacks in-between..Theresa

    • says

      I agree. The portions have gotten huge and it seems like they’re only getting bigger. In our book I talk about shrinking our stomachs back to what they were before we starting eating such huge meals. That’s what we have to do to stop over eating.

  3. Krissyp says

    I agree with you completely Carla. I was able to keep off an 87lb weight loss for 15yrs now thanks to small frequent meals. Preparation is key, always being prepared, and taking responsibility for what foods you put into your body. Eating 5x day doesn’t mean eating empty calories or high calorie meals all day, it’s about balance. This hardest thing for me was still having that hungry feeling after each meal, what I found was that if you give your food a few minutes to sit and allow the brain signals to happen then that hunger subsides…also knowing that in a few hours another meal is an option. Your body retrains quickly and suddenly portion control is achieved. I can’t sit down to huge meals anymore, if I like it that much then I will graze on a bit more three hours later. I do suffer from an autoimmune condition and this grazing helps with that as well, digestion is much easier and energy stores are preserved throughout the day. Thanks for sharing this.

    • says

      You could teach our class. You’re exactly right about the retraining your mind and actually shrinking your stomach so it gets used to eating smaller amounts. After you eat this way for a while you just can’t eat the big meals, you’re too uncomfortable. I just wish more people understood what you have discovered.

  4. Healthy Changes says

    Hi Karen,
    I just started this past week eating very healthy 3 meals 2 snacks inbetween… I eat every 3 hours and very healthy clean but small portions. The issue i’m having is that I am satisfied for a short period of time and feel ready for my next meal soon after where my stomach growls.. it’s like my stomach is saying i’m hungry but mentally im very satisfied… is this Normal or am i not eating enough? I train 5 days a week an hour-hour and a half and I eat about 1300-1400 cal a day…. Thanks for any feedback in advance 😀

  5. tricia says

    How many calories should u consume in dinner? I do two shakes a day with skim milk, a 160 fruit/veggie snacks through the day. Water all day.thanks~

    • nmeine says

      Tricia, it is different for everyone. It depends how tall you are, how much you weigh etc. Do you have our ebook? It goes over calorie counting and how many calories you should have in a day. If you do not please call into customer service and we will get this emailed to you! Thanks!

  6. LeAnn S says

    I just started doing this Friday and it is now Wednesday and I am down 3 pounds. I eat what I want, I don’t count calories or cut out any food groups and I feel great. I have tons of energy. Eating this way has automatically cut the calories I eat because I eat way smaller portions.

  7. Jody says

    Hi, can someone give me a quick example of what you eat between your morning shake and lunch, if any, and your lunch shake and dinner.. I just started today, I drank my coffee and then drank my shake at 9AM followed by a bottle of water, then at 11 AM my tum, tum was feeling a bit hungry, I’m sure it will take a few days to get my tummy use to the fact its not going to be stuffed full of food all day. I had a pear for a snack at 11:30 and will have my lunch shake at 12:30. I know by 2 PM I’m going to be getting hungry again. I do have hard boiled eggs and an apple, also have a store bought protein bar.. is it ok to eat something like this between my lunch and dinner.. thanks for anyone’s input..

    • Chelsea says

      Hi Jody – it’s great to have a snack between your breakfast and lunch IdealShakes, and then another snack before your whole-food dinner, to round out your 5 meals a day.

      Good snack options would be: hard boiled egg + fruit (like you have), an IdealBar, Greek yogurt + fruit, carrots + peanut butter, or cheese + whole wheat crackers. If you’re still feeling hungry, you can add something extra to your IdealShakes like some of our favorite healthy add-ins.

      For more guidance, join us on our current 12-part Nutrition Challenge, which starts with 5 Meals a Day. Lots of good info from our nutritionist, Lindsey! Here’s the library.


  8. Dave says

    Not saying that eating little and often is a bad thing for certain people but I find that intermittent fasting is far superior. Eating in a 6-8 hour eating window, ensuring that I eat good wholesome food, lots of fruit and vegtables etc and being in a fasted state for 16-18 most of the time. Sometimes I throw in a 24 hour one too. This might sound scary for many people but you soon get used to it and you will see the weight just drop off. No constant calorie counting, weighing the size of meals etc. The trouble is people mostly eat too often and too much and this is the cornerstone to disease.

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