The Importance of Meal and Snack Timing

The time you eat can be just as important as what you eat. If you are skipping meals or going very long times between eating you may encounter a variety of issues that may impair your weight loss or lead to unhealthy weight or nutrient changes. The ideal amount of time between eating can vary from person to person and be dependent on medications and medical conditions, as well as how much you are able to eat in one sitting. A general rule of thumb regarding meal and snack timing is to aim to eat every 3-5 hours, but as mentioned this may need to be adjusted depending on your needs. Our highly trained staff of nutrition professionals can help you come up with a plan to make sure your eating is timed appropriately. Outlined below are some of these issues and suggestions to help you to keep on track.

Excessive Hunger
Waiting too long to eat between meals may cause you to feel overly hungry. This may be related to drops in your blood sugar levels and possibly a drop in your blood pressure if you have not been drinking adequate fluids between meals. Eating at regular times can help keep your appetite controlled, your blood sugar levels stable, and keep you feeling energized. Be sure to consume protein-rich foods at least every 5 hours to keep your daily protein intake within adequate ranges and to keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Protein-rich snacks can help keep your appetite in check. Try snacking on a low fat cheese stick, fat free plain Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, or a hard boiled egg for added protein.

Inadequate Daily Protein
Skipping meals is one of the quickest ways to sabotage your weight loss. When you skip meals you rob yourself of the ability to consume adequate amounts of vital nutrients, particularly protein, and set yourself up for failure later in the day. Sometimes we feel we need to skip a meal because of lack of time or because we think it may shave off some calories to promote better weight loss, but these are not valid reasons. In fact, the calories you save by skipping a meal earlier in the day are likely to come back to haunt you later in the day. This is due to feeling hungrier later in the day and overeating as a result. If time is the issue, try keeping protein drinks available for a convenient, portable option. Even if you do not have time to finish your drink in one sitting, drinking a few ounces can help give you at least some of the vital protein you need to keep you going. Remember to always aim for a goal of 60-80 grams of protein daily, or as otherwise directed by our clinical staff. If you need help calculating your daily protein intake, please ask your dietitian or nutritionist for assistance.

Slowing Basal Metabolic Rate
Excessive time between eating can also cause your body to feel like it is starving and result in a slower metabolic rate. Your body’s basal metabolic rate is defined as the rate at which the body uses energy while at rest to keep vital functions going, such as breathing and keeping warm. In other words, you metabolic rate is how fast or slow your body burns calories. Starvation is one way to slow this rate, muscle loss is another. Muscle loss occurs with starvation and inadequate dietary protein, both of which can be avoided by eating at regular times and consuming protein-rich foods throughout the day. This does not mean you should overdo it on the protein though. Too much protein can cause weight gain due to the extra calories consumed and result in a strain on your kidneys. As mentioned above, a moderate amount of daily protein (60-80 grams per day) is generally enough to meet your needs and help prevent muscle loss. The more muscle mass your body has the faster your basal metabolic rate is, thus increasing your body’s ability to burn calories, lose weight and keep the weight off. Exercise is another great way to keep your body’s muscle intact and build more muscle. So get moving! And remember, every little bit counts.

Use these tips to help you through your weight loss journey. Remember though that everybody is different and as such no one plan fits all, so be sure to speak to our clinical staff if you have questions about your specific meal timing and protein goals.

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