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Why I Don’t Eat Mini-Meals—Unless Absolutely Necessary

NoMiniMealsOne of those “food rules” that has never worked for me is the idea of the mini-meal. Some people swear by mini-meals for weight-loss and maintenance, but I’m pretty sure I’d go insane eating six 300-or-so calorie meals in a day. Firstly, isn’t that a lot of planning? Especially for those who work outside of the home? Do you just have tons of snacks in your work fridge? Secondly, what happens when you want a bigger meal, like you get a hankering for a big piece of lasagna and a salad? Thirdly, do you ever feel satisfied or do you just feel like you’ll need to eat in another hour or two (which you will)?

My days typically start with a fairly light breakfast—coffee, cereal and fruit. I eat a slightly larger lunch, usually leftovers from the night before. I snack in the afternoon if I’m feeling hungry, and then my largest meal is dinner. I know, it’s the total opposite of the whole “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” philosophy. But it’s always worked for me.

Lately, though, the little bun in my oven has thrown my three-square-meal eating plans for a loop. I’m hungry all the time, yet if I have large meals I pay for it in heartburn. I have my usual breakfast and lunch and then an afternoon snack. Or two! Then dinner. And then an evening snack. Or two! My suspicions have been confirmed about how time consuming it is to be a mini-mealer. I feel like my life revolves around my need to eat constantly. I feel like I eat all day, and I feel like I’m eating the same stuff all the time. I know mini-meals help keep glucose levels steady and can boost metabolism, but I miss feeling full after a normal meal, and I miss my life not being ruled by my stomach! Until I get back to my normal, I’ll just keep wondering how you mini-mealers do it…

I’d love to know your big thoughts on mini-meals. Are you a mini-meal advocate? Let me know why it works for you (or why it never has)! —Erin

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  1. ash says:

    Hi, I do the mini meal thing for health reasons. I have severe acid reflux and eating small snack type meals every 2-3 hours is the only way I can live comfortably and have my life back. It really works for me! I just go with how I feel some days I eat 5 times a day some times 8!

  2. Michelle says:

    I eat 5 mini-meals a day; breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and dessert. I find when I break my meals out like this I am not starving before my next meal and I don’t have the urge to snack. This format helped me lose 70 pounds and I have been maintaining this loss for 1.5 years. This type of eating took some getting used to and a lot of planning at the beginning. Now it’s second nature and I spend little time planning. I can tell you what I’m going to eat on any given day.

    My typical day looks like this:

    Breakfast: Homemade oatmeal, 4 oz greek yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit
    Lunch: Gnu Flavor & Fiber bar, sliced vegetables, more yogurt
    Afternoon snack: Banana
    Dinner: Varies but is usually between 300 and 400 calories, is low in fat and high in fiber and protein whenever possible. Dinner always includes a vegetable.
    Dessert: Apple

  3. Kathy says:

    I hear ya! I have a friend who is in a fairly aggressive work out program with an accompanying meal plan that has her eating 6 times a day. She works in a very busy salon and it just isn’t sustainable. “Diets” are so bioindividual. What works for one could be way off for another. I like the Ayurvedic method of waking to a glass of lemon water (nice liver detox), healthy breakfast and exercise in the morning. The main meal is taken in the afternoon at a liesurely pace – chew the food slowly to release good enzymes for efficient digestion – and a small supper (“supplement”) if needed, by 6:00 p.m. No snacks. Good blood sugar regulation and optimal energy balance can be maintained through this way of eating.

  4. jen b says:

    I don’t eat mini meals for one of the reasons you mentioned–I ALWAYS have a hankering for lasagna, pizza….all the yummy stuff.

    I (try to) stick to 3 meals a day w/ no snacks, sweets, or seconds, unless the day starts w/ an S–Sat, Sun or special day. (The No S Diet)

    It has worked well for me to get all my fruits/veggies in on my one plate of food, and I end up eating more of them, b/c I can’t put it off until another mini meal.

    What works for me won’t work for everybody, but that’s what’s great about a blog–you can get so many more ideas to figure out what works for you!

  5. Lucy Perry says:

    I’m like Ash (and diabetic since 2005): I need smaller ‘meals’ several times a day to keep the reflux at bay. Helps avoid heartburn, too, as you stated, especially in the evening. My problem is finding time for that first meal, even working from home. Lately, b’fast/first meal doesn’t happen until 10 or 11! Definitely not good, and something I didn’t do for years, but my schedule is too crazy these days. 🙂

  6. Kelly says:

    I kind of do it like this. I tend to “mini meal” out the calories I eat while I’m at work. I always seem to want a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack (and often both), so really the only way to have snacks PLUS breakfast and lunch is to make them all minis. But once I leave work I spend all my PM calories in one dinner.

  7. Betsy says:

    Pregnancy made me a mini-meal-er 🙂 It was the only way I could stay sane and not too nauseous. It helps to just cut your meal into smaller bits – maybe half a sandwich here, an apple there, etc. It really helps with breastfeeding too.

  8. Shannon says:

    Totally agree. When I’ve tried 5-6 small meals a day, it always ended up not being sustainable for my lifestyle. It was too difficult to plan variety and figure out to bring that many tupperware containers with me.

    I will say that, like exercising in the morning, eating more small meals may have produced the desired effect, which was to boost my metabolism, but it made me feel hungry all day which for me leads to overeating and obsession with food, as in “When do I get to eat next? What’s it gonna be?” etc.

    My experiments have been helpful in teaching me to reduce portion sizes, however, especially at lunch. I have smaller snacks in between meals if I need one, and eat a lot less than I used to.

  9. Linda says:

    I love the mini meals. I never get that hankering for a big piece of lasagna because I’m alway satisfied. I’ll plan a cheat day now and then when the mood strikes and pick back up the next day.

    It took some getting used to for me; I had tried it previously with no luck. But at the advice of my trainer and fitness-minded friends, I tried again; this time really planning what I was going to buy, pack for work, eat at home, etc.

    It took a little effort in the beginning as any new routine does, but now it’s just a matter of taking 5 extra minutes before I go to the store to plan out my snacks/mini meals.

    Since I started minis, my weight doesn’t fluctuate as much, I’ve started losing weight again, I have more energy to hit the gym after work (schedule doesn’t allow for a.m. workouts), and I don’t get as bloated after eating!

    I’m sold! 🙂

  10. Amber says:

    I am 100% a mini-mealer and I love it! I have been a mini-mealer for the past year and a half, eating 5-6 meals per day. I’ve lost about 16 pounds eating this way and weight training. I have a HUGE appetite and on top of that I LOVE food! I like that I get to eat every 2-3 hours and I rarely ever feel hungry.

    I cook in batches about twice per week. Cooking lean meats, veggies, sweet potatoes, ect. This doesn’t take longer than an two hours for me to cook. Then I portion them out into containers and just grab them and go during the week. I also make delicious protein loafs, pancakes and shakes which count as one of my meals. I know there are a lot people who snack between meals anyway, so to me this isn’t very different.

    Here is an example of a normal day for me:

    Meal 1: Kale omelet with a side of sweet potato or kabocha squash
    Meal 2: Small portion of chicken and veggies OR a pumpkin protein shake
    Meal 3: Slice of pumpkin protein loaf or a pumpkin protein pancake
    Meal 4: Chicken with brussel sprouts
    Meal 5: Chicken with kale and green beans

    If I am still hungry after my 5th meal, I will eat a handful of nuts or have some boiled eggs.


  11. Hi all,

    There’s a lot of interesting points here. On the one hand, I can totally identify with the difficulties of bringing copious amounts of food around with you to cover all your mini meals. Who really wants to be stuck carrying a construction worker’s cooler all the time? Shannon also raised and interesting point about potentially “obsessing” about food and eating. I guess I, too, am guilty of this as well, and I can see how it could be a pain to constantly have meals on the brain.

    Although it’s definitely a preference, I do mini meal, and here’s why. Many of you mentioned the potential benefits of eating “less” more often, such as a revved up metabolism. I also feel less bloated when I graze, since I’m not eating three larger block meals. Aside from this, I find mini mealing it comes with the workouts. I get so HUNGRY when I’m working out often! They say teenage boys can eat out the entire fridge in an afternoon, but some days, I think I could almost do the same!

    Practically, I think mini mealing it can be difficult compared to sticking to the standard three. However, as much as I’m not a fan of being “ruled by my stomach,” I feel that it also comes with the territory; the harder you work out, the more pressing your appetite bccomes. I suppose it might also be a matter of getting used to eating often as well. At this point, I’m more accustomed to having a snack or grazing every few hours, so it’s not as much of a hassle to have food around than it was when I first began switching over from the big three.

    In the end, I think it all comes down to what keeps you the healthiest, and this is definitely tied to whichever way you’re able to manage eating nutritious foods—whether block meals or not. ☺



  12. Christine says:

    I am completely ruled by my appetite. If I’m hungry I’m going to eat, and if I’m hungry I will not make myself suffer until my next meal. Somedays it feels like I’m eating all day, other times bedtime will come and I notice I’ve only eaten once the whole day. I dont know how people stick to strict eating schedules!

  13. Lauren says:

    Hi Erin!
    As a sufferer of Irritable Bowel and Acid Reflux (yay me!) I have read many times about the benefits of not overeating. However, I read this and a book called “French Women Don’t Get Fat” which discussed the idea of not snacking and it made me think perhaps this was the way to go! I tried this for around 2 months – but the weird thing was it had quite an adverse effect on my body — I started to not get hungry for 8 or so hours then be ravenous and devour a days worth of food in a matter of hours. I think also the idea that I say to myself “ok this is breakfast do not touch anything until lunch” and the same with lunch and dinner is a lot of pressure to pit on yourself! Since I have gone back to eating 3 meals with 2 small protein filled snacks in between (e.g. yoghurt, hard boiled egg, fruit and nuts, cut up vegetables with hummus, apple with smear of almond butter) I have found that I am not concerned about consuming as much at breakfast and lunch (what I put down to a ‘storing for the winter’ mentality) and am happy with more modest portions as I know if I am hungry later a small snack is on the way. I went back to my French Women book and found that we (the mini-mealers and the 3 square mealers) are all eating the same – it is just HOW we are eating that is different. While a three square meal individual may have a lunch of a sandwich and small tub of yogurt, a mini-mealer (or snacker) will have the sandwich for lunch, and the yogurt at perhaps 3pm? Nothing extra, just different timing. Some people need large portions to feel as though they have eaten and other need little bits of food to keep them fuelled. As long as your diet is filled with fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, good fats and wholegrains, I say: each to their own. 🙂

  14. Chantal says:

    I have tried the mini-meal way a few times, and each time it was impossible. I am STARVING within 90 minutes of eating, which then defeats the purpose. At that rate, I would spend the whole day THINKING about food and wanting it, and with having to eat so often, way more than 6 meals would be consumed. Not good.

  15. Cheri McElroy says:

    I gained weight doing the mini meals. Obviously, they weren’t mini enough. Since switching to 3 meals a day, no snacks, my weight has come back down. And I do as you do, Erin, with dinner being my largest meal. Thanks for sharing.

  16. priy says:

    I, like a lot of other comenters, also have ibs. It got really bad a few years ago ajd I noticed ofed eating amaller meals heled me feel better-then I lost a tok of weight! Not good for an active teenage girl! But I started the mini meql thing and it wprks for me! But there are times when I will wander bigger servings, so I’ll jist got with it and wat accordong to to how i feel! Hopw this helps.others oit there 🙂 (and sorry aboit grammer errors, I got tired of fixing all of them from my phome)

  17. priya says:

    I, like a lot of other comenters, also have ibs. It got really bad a few years ago ajd I noticed ofed eating amaller meals heled me feel better-then I lost a tok of weight! Not good for an active teenage girl! But I started the mini meql thing and it wprks for me! But there are times when I will wander bigger servings, so I’ll jist got with it and wat accordong to to how i feel! Hopw this helps.others oit there 🙂 (and sorry aboit grammer errors, I got tired of fixing all of them from my phome)
    Oh and dinner is my biggest meal sometimes just bc that’s how my parents are!

  18. Shane says:

    I agree. I can’t maintain that lifestyle. Eating a good portioned meal is the lifestyle that works for me.

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