I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s better for weight-loss and overall health to eat small, frequent “mini-meals” five to six times throughout the day rather than three big ol’ square ones. But why? And how the heck do you do it and live in our society, which is obviously driven by the breakfast-lunch-massive-dinner cycle? We recently caught up with Elizabeth Ward, author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and spokesperson for Sargento cheese, for her best mini-meals ideas, tips and reasons why you should mini-size your diet—starting with your next meal (which will be in like two hours…)!
Mini-Meal Ideas and Tips
Why eat mini-meals? Nutritious mini-meals can help balance daily food intake, incorporate essential nutrients and stabilize energy levels. Mini-meal snacking can also help to reduce binges and cravings.
How can mini-meals help with weight-loss? Eating larger meals, which typically consist of unhealthy convenience foods, can sap your energy levels. Incorporating nutritious mini-meals multiple times a day helps to rev up your metabolism, and may even help with weight control, as long as you keep calories within your calorie budget to maintain your weight or lose weight.
What should every mini-meal include? Always include foods rich in protein, fiber and carbohydrates such as milk, yogurt, nuts, nut butter, hummus, cottage cheese and eggs. Sargento Reduced-Fat Colby-Jack Sticks and Reduced-Sodium Mild Cheddar Sticks are perfect examples of snacks that add essential nutrients like calcium and protein to your diet, and they also help boost energy levels.
How many mini-meals should you eat a day and how often? It’s important to eat on a regular basis, but it’s even more important to eat only when you are hungry. I eat about every three to four hours, but people need to find what works for them.
How big should the mini-meals be? Snacking intake averages about 580 calories each day. You can use this as a benchmark for mini-meals. If you prefer to have a morning and afternoon snack, aim for 250 to 300 calories. If you need a snack before bed, too, make each mini-meal about or less than 200 calories.
What are some mini-meal suggestions? To spice up snack time, make your own cheese and vegetable kabob. Try alternating cherry tomatoes with cubes of your favorite Sargento cheese stick on a skewer. Or, for a refreshing smoothie rich in calcium, potassium and fiber, blend a frozen banana with a cup of low-fat skim milk. Pump it with even more protein and flavor by adding a tablespoon of peanut butter.
Anything else we should know about mini-meals? Mini-meals are important, but they must be balanced and they should offer opportunities for good nutrition. In addition, they need to fit within your personal calorie budget.
Thanks to Liz for the mini-meal tips! Tell us, do you eat mini-sized meals? —Jenn