Smaller, More Frequent Meals

Smaller, More Frequent Meals: Overview

There are many health advantages to eating smaller meals at more frequent intervals during day.

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The most important part to understand about eating more meals is that it is not a license to "pig out".  Your goal is to eat smaller meals consisting of nutritious food that will satisfy the needs of your body.  If you use the plan of eating more meals as an excuse to eat more junk food like burgers, fries or high fat snacks then you are not going to lose any more weight than you would on a normal diet.  If, instead, you plan your meals so that you are constantly eating a smaller portion of something nutritious like a piece of fish, fruit or vegetable, then you will start to notice that you are less hungry overall and you need less food to fill up at each meal.

Function; Why it is Recommended

By eating more meals with smaller portions you will not feel as hungry or deprived in between meals because you know you are going to be eating again soon.  In addition, when people only eat once or twice each day, their bodies go into 'starvation mode' and try to hold on to calories: When you eat every three or four hours you keep your body from storing as many calories because your body senses that it is going to have a steady supply of food.

Small, frequent meals are suggested to optimize digestion.

Eating regularly throughout the day also helps to maintain steady insulin levels.  People who are overweight tend to have diminished insulin function and many end up becoming diabetic.  The type of foods that people eat as well as when the food is eaten plays a big role in how the body releases insulin, which in turn greatly affects how the body is able to utilize food for energy.  When insulin levels are improper the body has trouble using food for energy and instead may store the food calories as fat.  The best way to ensure proper insulin function is by eating smaller meals more frequently that contain the right proportion of nutrients.


The easiest way to avoid missing a meal is to have plenty of nutritious food available by providing yourself with apples, bananas, nuts, graham crackers, pretzels and so forth, that can be eaten when you do not have time for something more complicated.

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Smaller, More Frequent Meals:

Smaller, More Frequent Meals can help with the following:


Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure)

As more blood is drawn to the digestive tract, less may be available for maintaining blood pressure.  To avoid problems with low blood pressure which occurs after meals, try eating smaller, more frequent meals and resting after eating to lessen episodes of dizziness.  Avoid taking hypotensive drugs before meals.


Carbohydrate Craving

Eating regularly is important.  If too many hours have passed between meals, blood sugar will drop and your body will crave carbohydrates since these are the foods that will provide the quickest supply of energy.  Eat small meals or snacks containing some protein every few hours to keep blood-sugar levels steady.  Skipping meals causes blood sugar levels to drop, which leaves you yearning for processed carbohydrates and sweets for energy.


Rapid Stomach Emptying (Gastric Dumping)

People who have dumping syndrome need to eat several small meals a day that are low in carbohydrates and should drink liquids between meals, not with them.

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea for those with IBS.  Symptoms may be eased if you eat smaller meals more often or just eat smaller portions.  This should help, especially if your meals are low in fat and high in carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.


Low Melatonin Level

Eating regular meals in the recommended hearty breakfast / medium lunch / modest dinner pattern can improve melatonin production.  It is important to eat a lighter meal at night because the digestive process slows as melatonin levels begin to rise.

Lab Values

High Total Cholesterol

Controlling cholesterol levels may be a case of not only what is eaten but how often.  Men and women who eat six or more times a day have cholesterol levels that are about 5% lower than those of less frequent eaters.  The researchers found lower levels of cholesterol in the frequent eaters regardless of their body mass, physical activity or whether they smoked.  From other studies we know that a 5% lowering of cholesterol may be associated with a 10% reduction in coronary heart disease risk. [British Medical Journal, Dec 1, 2001]



Frequent small meals are more effective in stabilizing blood sugar levels than large, less frequent ones.  Remember to consume something before symptoms appear.  Protein snacks that keep well should be stored in locations such that you always have quick access to food.  You may find it helpful to store protein bars or nuts in your car, at work, in your pockets or (for women) in your purse.

Organ Health


Small, frequent meals are suggested to optimize digestion.

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Smaller, More Frequent Meals can help prevent the following:


Heartburn / GERD / Acid Reflux

Try to eat small, frequent meals instead of three big meals each day.  Small amounts of food each time will exert less workload on the stomach and therefore require less acid secretion for digestion.

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May be useful:
may help with
Moderately useful: often helps with
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often helps with
Very useful: is highly recommended for; usually prevents
Very useful:
is highly recommended for; usually prevents
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