Meals vs. Snacks: Which Team are You On?

SnacksThroughout most of the past decade, the idea of “3 meals a day” was widely accepted and practiced by a majority of American households.  You ate a breakfast of maybe toast and eggs, a sandwich packed for lunch and you would sit down to a dinner that focused on protein as the star, with a vegetable and a starch in the supporting role.  Perhaps a dessert would accompany that dinner, but for the most part, it was those three meals that shaped the day.

Now much of what we see supports the idea of several smaller “meals” a day or 3 small meals and 2 snacks throughout the day as opposed to the traditional 3 large meals.  The reason behind this recommendation stems from the idea that eating more often is necessary to keep your metabolism working all day long.  If you wait too long in between meals you will likely get too hungry and then eat too much.  When one gets too hungry, they also are likely to make the wrong food choices and it takes a greater amount of food to rev up the metabolism.

When it comes to meals versus snacks, like most things in nutrition, balance is the key.  Creating balanced, smaller meals interspersed with healthy filling snacks is the key to staying comfortably full and satiated throughout the day.  By planning your meals and snacks in advance, you will find yourself having an easier time saying no to unplanned foods that pop up throughout the day because your hunger is tamed.

For a guide to planning meals and snacks, take a look at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics new graphic called MyPlate which can be found at:  The site explains how to fashion each meal so it has all the necessary nutrition components for optimal health.

For creating healthy snacks, remember to have them include carbohydrates, fat, and protein in a balanced ratio and plenty of filling fiber to keep you satiated until meal time.  For example, hummus and vegetables, or fruit and Greek yogurt are excellent, nutritious snacks.

For help with meal planning for weight loss or to manage a medical condition, click here.

Time to take action: Please comment below and let me know which team are you on: meals or snacks?

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6 replies
  1. Marisa Slusarcyk
    Marisa Slusarcyk says:

    Seems like I am always reading about eating healthy these days, I know its a huge epidemic in North America for bad food choices and weight gain. I struggle with eating enough. There have been weeks where I consume only 300 calories, including fluids, yet I have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder (I believe I should be) However, because of my not eating and having had two children and being on medication my weight actually has me in the obese pile while my eating habits mimic that of a person with anorexia. Obviously, my reasons aren’t to stay thin, in fact my reason is I really don’t enjoy food and I don’t realize I am hungry until I feel faint, so I normally only eat when someone prepares a meal. What type of advice would you give to someone who struggles with eating the way I do? BTW I saw your link on UBC.

    • Bonnie R. Giller
      Bonnie R. Giller says:

      Hi Marisa, thank you for sharing your story. What strikes me the most in your comments is that you don’t really enjoy food and you don’t realize when you are hungry until you feel faint. Two of the very crucial principles of intuitive eating are Discovering the Satisfaction Factor of Eating, and Honoring Your Hunger. These 2 areas need to be explored so you can truly begin to enjoy your eating experiences and food, and be able to tune into the signals your body is giving you. I would be happy to chat with you if you’d like. Just send me an email ( and we’ll set it up.

  2. Edward Elliott
    Edward Elliott says:

    I grew up on the 3 meals a day thing and it seemed to work for me and my family. Once I grew older and was out on my own, I learned that eating 5 – 6 smaller meals every 3 – 4 hours was good. I think which ever way people choose to eat, they should be happy with their choices and thankful for the opportunity to have this great food for their body. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sheri Conaway
    Sheri Conaway says:

    Boy, did you nail it with this post! I definitely find that when I pre-make meals and snacks for the day, I am more likely to stay on track! Not only that, I don’t hit that low point, mid afternoon which is so common when we stick to the three meals a day. Also, as I tend to eat while I work, each of the “meals” can last a couple of hours so it’s more of a grazing than a set meal time. (this may not work for everyone, but it is definitely the best approach for me!)

    • Bonnie R. Giller
      Bonnie R. Giller says:

      Thanks for sharing Sheri. True, grazing doesn’t work for everyone especially if one isn’t paying attention to flavor, texture, aroma etc of the food…it can affect the satisfaction factor of eating. I’m glad this approach is working for you! Certainly preferred over the 3 meals per day.


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