Eating five – six small healthy meals throughout the day can help you control your appetite, have more energy at work and reduce your chances of binge eating throughout the day.
Simple, nourishing whole foods provides your body with clean fuel to keep it running optimally all day. A steady supply of nutrients in the form of complex carbohydrates (whole fruits and vegetables), lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy fats will help you feel fuller and more satisfied, increase your metabolism, and help you avoid cravings.
How small should my snacks/meals be?
The size of your snacks and meals depends upon your daily caloric needs. However, a good rule of thumb is to keep snacks in the 100- to 300-calorie range. Aim for healthy meals between 300 and 600 calories, including your beverage. Drinks can add a lot of calories, so if you want to spend your calories wisely – drink water or low-fat milk and save your calories for real food.
So how do you go about eating five to six small meals a day instead of three large ones?
First, don’t let the notion of eating so many times a day overwhelm you. Having access to a constant supply of nutritious food roughly every 2 to 3 hours will only take a little bit of planning. You probably already eat roughly three meals a day, so all you have to do is reduce the size of your meals and add two snacks – one snack between breakfast and lunch, and another between lunch and dinner. If you have access to a refrigerator at work – use it. Otherwise, add ice packs to lunch bag or simply pack nonperishable snacks like fruit, nuts or peanut butter and whole wheat crackers.
I’ll show you a sample of my meal schedule to help you get started. Find a blank sheet of paper and take a few moments to write out the best times to eat based on your daily work schedule and personal activities.
Sample Meal & Snack Schedule
|Morning Snack||10:00 am|
|Afternoon Snack||3:00 pm|
|*Evening Snack/Noncaloric Beverage||8:30 pm|
* Healthy beverage suggestions include green tea, black tea, or water with fresh fruit slices, such as cucumbers, lemons, limes, or strawberries.
Here are a few additional tips to help eat several small meals throughout your workday:
- Start slowly. Don’t try to jump from eating three meals a day to six meals/snacks overnight. Look over the eating schedule you completed above and pick one snack to focus on. Take a couple of days to work that snack into your eating regimen, then focus on adding another. Find foods that are cheap and convenient for you to take to work.
- Rely on staples. Do a little research to find at least five healthy snacks you like and have access to. Purchase what you need, prepare it if necessary (i.e., wash, chop, put in small containers), and store it so it’s there when you need it. Integrating planned snacks into your diet will become a no-brainer, thus eliminating the stress of constantly trying to figure out what you can munch on.
- Split meals. Prepare a big healthy breakfast, but only eat half of it. Pack the other half in a storage container and take it to work as your mid-morning snack.
Do you struggle to eat healthy snacks/meals throughout the workday? Share your biggest challenge below!