If limiting your intake of calories is helping you lose weight, then cutting back on your calorie consumption even more should speed up the weight loss process, right? Not necessarily.
Let’s talk about why it not only matters what you eat, but how often you eat. Read on for five tips to help you stay on track with your weight loss goals and to help you be more mindful when it comes to enjoying your next meal or snack.
1. Avoid skipping meals. Eat every few hours or when you're hungry
It may seem counterintuitive, but skipping meals may actually hinder your weight loss and potentially be detrimental to your overall health. In fact, you'll want to eat every few hours (just listen to your hunger cues!) to keep your blood sugar levels stable and avoid feeling ravenous. One of the consequences of skipping meals during the day is that you may become extremely hungry at night, which can lead you to ditch your well-balanced diet and make unhealthy food choices, or worse, overeat (hello late-night snacks). One study1 even found that skipping breakfast may put men at higher risk for coronary disease compared to those who fueled up with a healthy breakfast in the morning. In addition, eating breakfast and healthy foods may help you stay full longer. This helps you stay on track with your weight loss goals and may help you avoid eating large meals.
2. Enjoy healthy snacks in between meals
Whether you’re filling up on fresh and free foods like non-starchy vegetables or enjoying a piece of fruit, it’s important to eat healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and ward off cravings for high-calorie foods. The same principles that apply to skipping meals during the day also apply to snacks; consuming snacks regularly can help keep you from experiencing a dip in blood sugar (and energy). Enjoying small, healthy snacks in between meals can also help ensure that you continue to keep your metabolism revved and stave off hunger pangs.
3. Follow a planned menu
If you’re just starting a planned weight loss program like Jenny Craig, you may be surprised at the sheer volume of food — meals, snacks, free foods and even desserts — that make up your daily plan. You may also be surprised at how many times a day you eat (six times a day if you're following the Jenny Craig program). However, over time, making healthier choices and developing healthier eating habits will help you learn the necessary skills for long-term success like portion control and balance. If your meal plan calls for added fruits and vegetables, just know that it’s an important part of your nutritional intake for the day.
4. Stay on schedule . Eat 3 meals and 3 snacks a day
Controlling hunger and balancing your blood sugar are both critical to your body and weight loss success. In fact a review conducted by The International Society of Sports Nutrition2 says that eating smaller meals with regular snacks throughout the day can help balance your “good” and “bad” cholesterol (also known as HDL and LDL), along with managing your appetite and blood sugar. How often should you eat? This is a common question many people have when starting their weight loss journey. Jenny Craig recommends eating three meals and three snacks a day, typically aligned with daylight hours and avoiding late-night meals or snacks. By eating healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, in between meals, you’ll be less likely to feel ravenous at your next meal. This can help you avoid overeating and may prevent unnecessary weight gain. Here's one example: if you have breakfast at 7 a.m., you would enjoy a snack around 10 a.m., lunch at noon, your afternoon snack around 3 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. and your evening snack around 7 p.m.
5. Intermittent Fasting
Another food intake strategy that is gaining support is called intermittent fasting. This eating strategy focuses on when you eat and is the science behind Jenny Craig’s new Rapid Results weight loss program. Intermittent fasting aligns with the body's natural circadian rhythm and metabolism to help you work toward losing weight.
Essentially, there is a 12-hour nourishment period during the day where you consume your calories. After that, you spend 12-hours in a rejuvenation period where you don't consume food — most of this time is spent sleeping (aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night). Since your metabolism is more efficient in the morning to late afternoon, this eating strategy helps to work with your body’s natural process. Here’s an example of how you would put this into practice: You would eat breakfast at 8 a.m. and finish your last meal of the day by 8 p.m. Tuck in for bed at a reasonable hour and start your routine over again the following day!
With so many different opinions and eating styles, it can be confusing when deciding how often you should eat to lose weight. Remember, the same food schedule won’t work for every single person. Listen to your body and find a meal timing strategy that works best for you and makes you feel good!
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
Reviewed By: Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig