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Do you eat three meals a day? Or snack continuously? Or (gasp) both?!

I try devoutly to eat three meals---or breakfast, snack, dinner. But back when I was Atkinsing down from 300lb, I usually ate 4X per day. I have also heard of a religious order who ate twice a day---a late breakfast, an early dinner. Then there was my Dad, coffee and no breakfast, lunch and dinner, insane to me. Your schedule----or no schedule?

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  1. I eat when I'm hungry, there's no set schedule. I have health issues that tend to kill my appetite when they flare up (which is currently the case), so lately I've only been eating two meals most days - late breakfast or early lunch, and dinner around 7:30. Some nights I'm not hungry and don't even bother with dinner. Believe me, I wish I wanted to eat more frequently - I miss my appetite! But it'll come back, it always does.

    I've been a nutritionist for many years, and I can tell you that there is no single ideal number of times per day *everyone* should eat. Each individual's metabolism and hunger cues are different - eat when you're hungry, stop before you're uncomfortably full. For you that may require four meals per day, for someone else, six. For your Dad & me [right now], it's two.

    1. For me it is 3 meals, no snacks, but two of the meals (breakfast and lunch) are vegetable smoothies, vitamins and supplement foods or a small high protein mini meal. My big meal is dinner with wine :) no desserts. I fast a day or two all day until dinner if I am training for a sport.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sedimental

        Your schedule is one I wish I could get myself to follow.

      2. I eat when I'm hungry, with a few exceptions:

        - If I have a business function (e.g. lunch meeting or business dinner or banquet etc.); or

        - if I am training for an event like a marathon or a OLY-Tri, in which case I have to constantly consciously try to get enough calories or I tend to drop alot of weight and that usually means eating multiple meals even when I don't really feel hungry.

        Aside from those two instances, I just eat when I feel like it and even sometimes I don't even when I do feel hungry because I'm either traveling or busy with work.

        1. 3 meals, 2 snacks, generally, especially on weekdays. Weekends are a little more haphazard. But, breakfast is pretty small between 9 and 10, lunch is largeish between 1 and 2, a small snack (granola bar usually) around 230 or 3, another snack (usually carrots and hummus) around 4 or 430, then a pretty large dinner after 8pm usually, sometimes a very small dessert afterwards. I stay under 1800 calories a day most of the time, and this schedule works out well for me.... the only times I feel hungry is the hour or so before my lunch and dinner.

          1. four or five meals a day plus snacks.
            then i complain bitterly about how it is SO hard to lose weight.

            (p.s. to me, a pint of premium ice cream is a single portion, so that is a snack)

            2 Replies
            1. re: westsidegal


              Your answer is refreshingly honest! :-D

              I'm all over the map. Dinner we usually have a regular meal. Breakfast we may have together at the same time or not...it's not unusual for one or the other of us to eat leftover dinner for breakfast. The rest of the day I graze. I have some health issues and have learned to eat when I'm hungry And stop when I'm almost full.

              1. re: ItalianNana

                Another grazer here. Altho', to be honest, in the OP's terms, I (gasp) do both: eat meals and snack constantly. And my jeans are showing the strain. But to be self-righteous, I very rarely eat anything past 6 p.m.

            2. Breakfast is hit or miss but usually just a boiled egg when I do eat it. Definitely lunch and dinner every day and fruit as a snack. My husband eats breakfast, first lunch, second lunch (as I call them), and dinner every day...or complains if he doesn't. He's a 6'4" gym rat though. It's interesting how people eat though. It makes me more sceptical of diets that say you must eat X times a day or X number of meals a day.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Hobbert

                It makes me more sceptical of diets that say you must eat X times a day or X number of meals a day.
                See the last part of my reply above :)

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Exactly! Eating that's tailored to each individual...revolutionary!

              2. When I'm good (usually during the week), I eat three meals and three snacks. Fruit, yogurt for snacking. Airpopped popcorn for my 9pm snack.

                On the weekends, I don't follow strict rules, but still have three meals a day.


                1. I can eat a lot but not at one sitting. I like to eat small amounts of food frequently over the course of the day. Luckily I like most foods cold (except potatoes) so this is pretty easy.

                  1. I am definitely a grazer and I have blood sugar issues, so I do much better when I eat small amounts every couple of hours.I hate the feeling of being full or worse, "too" full.

                    I can't eat first thing in the morning, so I usually eat "breakfast" at about 10 am, then having something at 1, then a snack at 3, then something before I work out at 6-ish, then "dinner" at 8 or 9, then something sweet before bed.

                    Work sometimes dictates that I eat three meals at set times and frankly, I hate it. That's me, in the meeting, scarfing down almonds and dried fruit.

                    1. Breakfast is strong coffee with 1/2 &1/2 and sugar everyday NO food. Lunch is fruit....a couple of home grown oranges if I am hungry or a chopped apple and an orange....I do fix dinner every evening for myself then usually a couple of snacks before sleep....fruit....maybe a piece of toast or a small hunk of cheese. I can not eat three meals a day on a regulated schedule. I eat if I am hungry...that is why I keep fruit.....celery hearts....sliced bell peppers...cottage cheese in my house so I can eat something healthy if I have hunger pangs.I used to have an enormous appetite and was always excited about my next meal but not so much these days.I cannot eat that much now.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Lillipop

                        i make a lentil soup with kale that i keep on hand for the same purposes.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          recipe for the lentil soup? I was a lot more conscious of my snacking choices and portions when I was tracking on WW, but have been slipping lately. I'd love to have some better options on hand for when I am hungry, instead of endless bags of whoppers mini eggs and cadbury cream eggs.

                          1. re: calmossimo

                            1) saute about a quart of mirepoix in a little olive oil until the vegetables start to caramelize (trader joes and whole foods sell this stuff already chopped up)
                            2) add a bunch of water and add about a cup and a quarter of mixed lentils and yellow split peas
                            3) simmer about 35 to 45 minutes until the legumes soften
                            4) add salt to taste (if the salt is added beforethe lentils soften, they will take longer to cook)
                            5) add a ten ounce bag of fresh, organic, washed, chopped kale (trader joe's sells this in their refrigerator case near the bagged salads)
                            5) cook briefly until the kale is cooked.

                            serve and grind some fresh pepper on top.
                            it's simple, and it's a cheat in that it tastes like MUCH more work has gone into it.
                            i brought it to a pot luck the other night and everyone raved about it, like it was magic.
                            when i serve it to "normal" people who aren't dieting, i usually add a little more olive oil on the top of each individual bowl so that they will get is more mouth-feel of fat.

                            other than halloween, i never let commercial candy in my house. if i'm going to gain weight, it's going to be on valrhona chocolate from france. also, your palate gets "spoiled" and when you see candy bowls of hershey's products sitting out, they will no longer have any appeal to you.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              That's such a good way to say it, "a quart of mirepoix."

                            2. re: westsidegal

                              My lentils always taste *muddy*. My daughter thinks I may be overcooking them. I am going to try to find a good lentil product and prepare it with greens.Wish me luck.

                              1. re: Lillipop

                                try mixing french lentils (smaller, deeper green than normal green lentils)
                                some red lentils
                                some yellow split peas
                                if you live near a Whole Foods market or a health food store that sells in bulk, you can often buy 1/3 to 1/2 cup of each at at time so you don't have to bother storing any.

                                the mirepoix, the fresh ground black pepper, the salt, and the kale cut the residual muddiness of the lentils

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  I will find some.....they are delicious when prepared well:) Now I am starving!

                          2. Surprised by how much everyone's eating schedules vary! During the week I have breakfast either at home before work or after I get in, so between 7 and 9 AM. Then lunch or a snack around 1. If I eat a substantial lunch then I try to eat less dinner even if I am hungry, otherwise its a larger meal around 7. Work really gets in the way of my ideal eating times. I prefer two meals a day breakfast around 10 and dinner at 5, with snacks when necessary.

                            1. I tend to graze during the day. Have a moderate dinner at night. I never eat very much at one time. I guess it comes from rarely having the time for lunch and just nibbling at stuff. If I do have lunch it is usually a container of Greek yogurt (Chobani or Liberte') with about 1/4 C. Grape-nuts mixed in.

                              1. I've never been much of a breakfast person -- can't eat right after I wake up, so it's 2 cups of coffee, and then a long time of nothing. My lunch/brunch (or whatever you'd call my *first* meal of the day -- breakfast sounds wrong when it's late afternoon) can happen any time after 1 PM, sometimes as late as 4 PM, especially if I had a large dinner and still feel full for most of the following day. Dinner can be as early as 7:30 and as late as 9 PM.

                                I sometimes snack on nuts or cheese or popcorn after dinner, but shouldn't, really.

                                So that's pretty much two meals a day, with hardly any snacks in between, save for a few nuts sometimes, or canned sardines in the afternoon if I had an early-ish lunch.

                                1. When I am happy with myself, I'm having coffee or tea for breakfast, lunch around 12:30pm a snack at 2:30 or so and then a dinner and maybe a snack after.

                                  When I'm unhappy with myself, I'm grazing all day. I will also do this when stressed at work, as I can use food breaks the way strung out smokers might use cigarette breaks.

                                  1. For me it's 2 meals with a few snacks on the weekdays. My day starts off with coffee with full fat cream. Sometimes I am nibbly before lunch so will munch on nuts or a few pieces of candy. Lunch is usually early around 11AM. Sometimes I am peckish around 3 so will munch on whatever I can find. Fruit, nuts, small bag of chips (rare so a real treat.) Then dinner around 7-8PM. No dessert or further snacking.

                                    Now on the weekends, 2 meals and no snacking because I have the time to make/go out for a proper brunch around 11AM that keeps me full until dinner. Again no dessert or snacking after dinner.

                                    1. I do both. 3 meals a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I tend to eat both on schedule and when I'm hungry. It's just convenient that I'm usually hungry on schedule. I almost always have a snack at 4pm. My co-workers have started calling it "foursies" for me.

                                      Typically, a snack for me would be some fruit and crackers, cheese and crackers, yogurt, a pastry, or when I'm feeling really hungry, a little bit of everything like this.

                                      1. I eat a large breakfast, an equally large lunch and my dinner is light...

                                        1. To risk sounding like dear old Bill "it depends on how you define "meals".

                                          During the work week breakfast is usually an omelet with lots of veggies, on rare occasion a smattering of cheese along with a cup of coffee. Lunch is yogurt and fresh fruit (to me more of snack than a "meal". If hungry in the afternoon I might grab a handful of almonds, peanut butter and apple, maybe an oz. of cheese with a few crackers. Dinner is more what I consider a real meal-a protein, a veggie and a small portion of starch.

                                          Weekends I usually just eat three times a day with no snacks as my midday meal is bigger and I tend to consume more calories at it. We do have nibbles at the cocktail hour too so maybe I do really snack, but later in the day-around 6ish. I am much more active on the weekends (I have a desk job) so tned to want bigger portions.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            I would define your breakfast and dinner as meals, including the 'nibbles' which I would call appetizer or antipasto. I usually eat a *real* lunch, sometimes a snack, or (rarely) nothing at all. As I have a weight issue, I find that allowing myself multiple snacks makes quantity control difficult: 'Oh, I didn't have lunch, I can have a little more' and soon it adds up to more than a *real* lunch.

                                          2. I only eat when hungry, so I don't eat everyday and may do a small snack and that's it.

                                            1. My eating schedule typically depends on my work schedule. But I very, very rarely eat three meals a day.

                                              I try to eat only when I'm hungry and stop eating before I get completely full. If, say, work starts at 6am or earlier, I'm usually hungry between 11am and noon. Then I won't be hungry again until much later - 6 or 7pm. If work doesn't start until 9am or later I probably won't be hungry until 3pm or 4pm and that may be my only meal of the day.

                                              Vacations, holidays, parties and family gatherings are a bust and I'll usually eat just to make someone else shut up and leave me alone re: food / eating.

                                              1. My usual weekday schedule is a hearty brunch type meal around 10:30 or 11, then small snacks until dinner, usually at 8 in my house.
                                                I can't eat first thing upon waking up. I usually use that time to have some tea and hit the treadmill, by then I'm thinking about food.

                                                1. I tend to eat three meals a day, but one of them - generally breakfast or lunch - is always quite small, like one slice of toast & tea for breakfast or an apple and a bit of cheese for lunch. I almost never snack, but when I do it's usually on roasted unsalted nuts.

                                                  1. I eat 7-8 times a day, 3 of those being breakfast, lunch, and dinner and snacks in between. I'm also a workout nut and need my metabolism to be constantly going. I find that when I skip a feeding I get super hungry and make a bad unhealthy food decision.

                                                    1. I am hungry as soon as I wake up so I always have to have breakfast, usually just toast & sardines or a soft boiled egg around 7AM.
                                                      Usually hungry by 10ish so a snack of an apple or carrot cheese or hummas.
                                                      Smaller lunch around 1 or 2, half a sandwich or salad.
                                                      Then another apple cheese or hummas snack at 5pm. Dinner at 9 or so.
                                                      I try to keep all my portions on the smaller side. I don't need to seem to eat a lot of food at once just eat all day long otherwise I get cranky.
                                                      It's funny by husband can go all day until dinner without eating. When we travel together he is always amazed about how often I need to eat so I always keep nuts or something in the car.

                                                      1. Thanks, everybody! It is perhaps surprising (or maybe not) that the 3-meals norm that I grew up with is followed by approximately nobody. In the era of 'do your own thing', I wonder how anybody co-ordinates meals socially, to eat with other people. And if I ate when I was hungry---well, I'm always hungry! I use mealtimes to limit the quantity I am eating. All of your responses were quite interesting, thank you again.