In recent years, plenty of health research has focused on determining the best time to eat. It’s one thing to get all your necessary nutrients, but doing that while maintaining a normal weight and body mass can be a significant challenge.
Depending upon a person’s age, gender, and genetic makeup, meal timing can have a range of impacts. Conventional wisdom has long suggested that eating fairly frequently throughout the day—something like five to seven small meals—could make a major impact. A recent study, though, has turned that notion on its head.
This new research, which was headed up by the Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center in California, compared the eating habits and body mass index of more than 50,000 people who took part in the Adventist Health Study-2. The researchers found that lower overall BMI was linked to eating one or two meals per day—making sure to eat breakfast, and for the biggest meal of the day either breakfast or lunch—and fasting overnight for around 16 to 18 hours. The key meal of the day for staying lean? Breakfast, which was associated with the largest decrease in BMI.
Accordingly, the study authors recommend a weight-management approach in which you eat breakfast and lunch (breakfast being the biggest meal), miss dinner, eliminate snacks throughout the day, and fast overnight—essentially following the old adage “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” They also note that no matter the eating pattern, people in the study gained weight each year until age 60. After that, weight generally went down yearly.
“Before age 60, those eating calories earlier in the day had less weight gain,” said Gary Fraser, Ph.D., a professor at LLU Schools of Medicine and Public Health. After age 60, the same behavior tended to produce a larger rate of weight loss than average. “Over decades, the total effect would be very important.”
To maximize nutrition and maintain your ideal weight (once you get there), try adding in some of these great breakfast recipes. Just stick with the plan, and make sure to keep snacks to a minimum, or eliminate totally, and keep your dinners light and try to do a long overnight fast. For more, read up on the science of intermittent fasting.