How many times should you eat a day? Great question, well, for the longest everyone was saying six meals or more a day was great for weight loss. You should graze all day long they said, and now all of a sudden it's three or less. Why? Because they say that the more times you eat the more often you spike your insulin which is a legitimate concern. The more you spike your insulin the greater chance you have of becoming insulin resistant which creates a whole host of health issues including diabetes.
So the thought is you eat fewer times a day, and you can eat larger meals at one sitting, thus saving time as well. Sounds great as long as you are eating healthy foods and just like the six small meal plan you have to keep the amount of food you eat for the entire day under control.
See here's the problem, some people just can't wait longer, until they get really hungry to eat, without overeating when they finally do sit down to lunch or dinner. So, it's a case where yes technically, if a person is disciplined and eats a decent sized meal then they should be fine and may even have an increased metabolism because every time you spike your insulin it sends a signal to your body to store fat. So the fewer times you eat, the less your body says store fat. It's one of those things that sounds great on paper, but it may not work for everyone or for someone just starting to learn to eat healthy.
If you've been eating healthy foods for a long time, then you'll likely have less issue with eating less frequently per day. You probably have a good idea of not only what to eat when you eat, but how much of it you should eat to get the same amount of calories per day.
Now take your average person today who is more than likely addicted to junk food then fewer meals becomes a lot more problematic. I've seen this for myself quite a few times. Most people that are overweight don't always eat constantly, they just eat huge meals when they do eat, and I mean huge, and not of the healthy variety. For someone like that training themselves by eating smaller healthier meals throughout the day may help them fill less anxious and more satisfied and less likely to pig out at the end of the day. Foods with fiber may you fill full. This also works for the unhealthy snacker to create healthy food habits over their milk chocolate, chips, and pastry addictions. If they can switch to fruits and vegetables to replace milk chocolate and chips then they've won a huge battle. The weight is likely going to melt off, and their health likely to improve over time, unless, of course, the amount of fruit is too high as fruit contains sugar. It's balanced out with fiber, but it is still possible to overdo fruit.
The six small meals plan takes into consideration the junk food addict whereas eating only three meals a day does not. So there you go, fewer meals is more efficient, but may not work for the beginner as well as eating small frequent healthy meals and snacks. At the end of the day, the very first priority for the average person needs to be focused on what they eat and not as much when they eat. That should be first and foremost. The average junk food eater needs to rid themselves of their junk food addiction then they can try waiting longer to eat or even intermittent fasting which according to recent studies has a lot of great health benefits. Don't sweat it worrying about how many times you eat at first, though. Again, make sure that everything you put into your mouth is clean, wholesome food and the rest will take care of itself.
For some this may seem elementary, but just in case for those just now getting into health and fitness here's some examples of good and bad foods.
BAD (Usually has more sugar and less fiber)
Anything fried in vegetable oil such as breaded chicken nuggets
Pastries in general
Blueberries - within reason, berries have a lot of sugar.
Unbreaded chicken not cooked in vegetable oil
Sweet Potatoes - best for eating before a workout as they contain a lot of calories
Grass Fed Hamburger
Now once you are into healthy eating for a while you may want to go deeper into the rabbit hole of healthy choices by asking yourself what foods work better for you than others. For instance, even among fruits and vegetables, there are disagreements about the long-term effects which I tend to believe has a lot to do with an individual's tolerance to certain foods. For instance, spinach is a great healthy food, but overeating or even eating small amounts might cause some people to get kidney stones because of the greater amount of oxalates. Some health gurus recommend staying away from tomatoes and bell peppers even though they are very healthy in general there are aspects to these foods that may be problematic to some people, but usually these pale in comparison to the ill effects of eating junk food over a lifetime. The more you know the better you will be both in general knowledge of nutrition and just knowing your own body.