Q: Is it true that eating several small amounts of food throughout the morning could rev up my metabolism and help me lose weight better than eating one breakfast?
A: Despite how often you may hear people say that eating more frequently boosts metabolic rate and increases the calories we burn, well-controlled studies do not show that eating more often promotes weight loss. If you cut your calorie consumption to the same total, the amount of weight you’ll lose does not seem to change based on whether you eat those calories all at once or spread throughout the morning in several “mini-breakfasts.” Some studies do suggest that compared to eating your whole breakfast at once, the same food choices spread out over a few hours could offer some other health benefits, including a smaller rise in blood sugar and insulin in the hours after eating.
But the key questions are which eating pattern best allows you to consistently include foods that meet your nutritional needs and support overall health, and keeps calories at a level that helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight, sustains your energy, avoids excess hunger and fits into your lifestyle?
For some people, spreading eating out over the morning reduces total calorie consumption by avoiding late morning hunger that could prompt them to grab candy or pastries, or to overeat at lunch. However, for other people, spreading out their eating means they are more likely to quickly grab less-healthy options, or provides more occasions to eat portions beyond what is needed to satisfy hunger, with an end result of increasing total calorie consumption. Depending on your habits, either choice can fit with your goal of weight loss, so choose whatever breakfast pattern you can sustain and implement in a way that supports your total health.
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research