Whether you are recovering from a binge, getting back on track after the holidays, or simply looking for a weight loss edge, reducing your food intake to two meals a day is an effective strategy. Surprisingly, you may also enjoy it. This blog post shows you how breaking away from the three-meal-a-day mindset can help you reach your weight loss goal.
2 Meals a Day – At-A-Glance
- There is nothing inherently wrong with eating three meals a day. However, two daily meals made up of whole food choices can support your health and encourage weight loss.
- How-to Tip #1: Eat for Stable Blood Sugar Levels: Create two meals filled with healthy fats, protein, and non-starchy vegetables.
- How-to Tip #2: Eat Enough: Eat the same number of calories that you would with three meals.
- Benefit #1: Naturally Fewer Calories: When you limit eating to two meals, you avoid mindless snacking, helping you lower your calorie intake.
- Benefit #2: Lower Insulin Levels: Restricting your food intake to twice daily keeps your insulin levels low, encouraging fat loss.
Why 3 Meals a Day May Be 1 Meal TOO Many [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The pros and cons of eating three meals a day.
- How to change your daily eating pattern to two meals a day.
- The benefits of eating two meals a day.
Are 3 Meals Good, Bad, or Somewhere Between?
We have been tied to the three-meal-a-day culture for so long that it seems unhealthy to veer from that path. After all, eating frequently boosts your metabolism, and breakfast is the day’s most important meal. Right?
Digesting food requires energy, so you can argue that you get a small metabolic bump when you eat. But, if breakfast involves downing a couple of bowls of refined cereal, lunch is a fast-food burger with fries, and dinner is a big bowl of pasta with bread, you are not doing your body or metabolism any favors.
The reality is that the eating pattern of Western society has made us sick and fat. Reducing your eating to two meals a day and making whole food choices can put you on a new path that promotes health by stabilizing blood sugar levels and actually makes you less hungry throughout the day, not more.
Let’s start by looking at how to eat two meals a day and then further explore these benefits.
How to Do It?
The keys to making two meals work for you are choosing foods that stabilize your blood sugar and eating enough.
How-to Tip #1: Eat for Stable Blood Sugar Levels
It is normal for your blood sugar level to rise and fall throughout the day. For instance, cortisol and other stimulating hormones cause a blood sugar rise in the early morning hours, helping you wake up and prepare for your day. Intense exercise can also lead to a blood glucose rise, helping to ensure that your cells have enough energy to match the increased activity.
Eating is another cause of blood sugar fluctuations, and it is the biggest wild card because how much of a change depends on your food choices. When you eat refined carbs, like cereal, hamburger buns, and pasta, you flood your bloodstream with sugar. Your body responds by producing insulin to bring the sugar level back down. The result is a blood sugar rollercoaster that makes you feel alert on the way up, then crashes you into low blood sugar, causing fatigue, hunger, and cravings.
These crashes make it very hard to avoid eating between meals because your body and brain are screaming at you to eat something to bring up your blood sugar quickly
Therefore, for the best weight loss results, create two meals that are filled with healthy fats, protein, and non-starchy vegetables. The fat and protein prevent blood sugar spikes, and the vegetables provide hunger-satisfying volume. This is not only a state that keeps hunger away; it also keeps insulin low, which is a state that promotes fat burning.
Non-starchy vegetables are generally less dense than starchy vegetables, so think of salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and asparagus. Foods that contain a good mix of fat and protein include meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, nuts, and seeds.
This is an abbreviated list of foods, but from this list, you can get an idea of what to eat for your 2 meals a day diet. For instance, you could have a lunchtime salad topped with nuts, seeds, and hard-boiled eggs; and for dinner, have meat or fish with a side vegetable. Each of these meals will provide the nutrients and volume that your body thrives on.
Those are just a few examples. You can download my free list of 100 low-carb/high-fat foods for more ideas on my blog.
How-to Tip #2: Eat Enough
Even if you get your food choices right, it is common to consciously or unconsciously eat too little during your two meals.
Allowing yourself to eat larger meals can be a challenging mental hurdle to overcome, with the concern being that eating too many calories at one time will cause fat to be stored. It is true that calories that are not needed immediately will be stored as fat. However, this is not a bad thing and does not defeat your overall goal of losing weight.
Think of your body as a gas tank. If you eat a big meal, your body will hold onto that energy as you move through your day. When your body has a need, the stored energy is released, and you keep going until you refuel with your second meal of the day.
Even if you eat the same number of calories that you would have with three meals, you may be concerned that cutting your food intake to two times a day will make you too hungry and eventually lead to overeating.
One surprising study challenges the notion that eating frequently satisfies hunger better than eating less frequently. In this study, a group of healthy men underwent two diet interventions. For one study period, they ate three meals a day. For the second period, they were fed the same foods split over 14 meals, so they ate something almost every hour they were awake.
You would think that the participants would report that they felt more hunger satisfaction when they ate every hour. However, the opposite was true. When measured throughout the day, hunger was reduced, and satiety and fullness ratings were increased in the low-frequency diet compared to the high-frequency diet (1).
This study compared three meals to hourly meals. I am not saying that you will not experience hunger if you reduce your food intake to 2 meals a day. However, I hope this study helps to alleviate some fears about trying this diet strategy.
You may even find that you enjoy breaking your eating into two meals because it eases some of the demands of meal planning, allows for more productive hours, and effortlessly encourages weight loss because even though you are eating more at each meal, you naturally reduce your calorie intake for the day.
Why 2 Meals a Day?
Benefit #1: Naturally Fewer Calories
When you compartmentalize your food intake, you avoid mindless snacking, helping you naturally lower your calorie intake and lose weight. This factor can be easily overlooked because many of us would not identify as mindless eaters.
However, research shows that more than 50% of us consume calories all day long, from the cream in our morning coffee to the soda or sweet tea after lunch to the quick snacks before and after dinner. With a two-meal-a-day eating plan, these extra calories are avoided (2).
Benefit #2: Lower Insulin Levels
Restricting your food intake to twice daily also keeps your insulin levels low, further encouraging fat loss.
As you know, your body needs energy every hour of the day. You can take in energy from food or withdraw it from storage units like body fat. So as the day goes on, you are either depositing or withdrawing energy.
The conductor of this storage-and-release symphony is insulin. Insulin levels rise when you eat, filling fat stores. When you fast, insulin levels drop, making it easier for fat to be released.
There is nothing inherently wrong with eating three meals per day. However, if you are looking for a way to encourage weight loss, cutting back to two meals is worthwhile. To make it work, cut out the refined carbs, replace them with whole foods that are low in carbs and high in fat, and fill your stomach with non-starchy vegetables.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Munsters, Marjet JM, and Wim HM Saris. “Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males.” PloS one 7.6 (2012): e38632.
(2) Gill, Shubhroz, and Satchidananda Panda. “A smartphone app reveals erratic diurnal eating patterns in humans that can be modulated for health benefits.” Cell metabolism 22.5 (2015): 789-798.