Meal Maths
Meal Maths

It used to be that three square meals and an apple a day was the perfect recipe for a long and healthy life.

However these days it seems like each new day heralds the arrival of a new "must do" diet or eating plan.

Some diet experts believe eating five to six smaller, more regular meals can help boost the metabolism, regulate blood sugar levels and curb cravings, while others say it's not about when you eat but what.

Nutrition works sports dietitian Emily Eaton says that although it does depend on an individual's metabolism, lifestyle and requirements, there is research to suggest that five to six meals per day can raise the metabolic rate.

"A food plan that involves five or six meal occasions, would consist of three smaller meals plus two to three snacks throughout the day," Ms Eaton says.

"However it is still about overall calorie intake and those three main meals need to be perhaps entree rather than main- meal size.

"And by snacks that means high as opposed to low-nutrient snacks that ideally provide carbohydrates and/or protein," she says.

She says everyone's blood sugar levels rise and fall during the course of the day; however there are ways to ensure you're not always on an energy-fuelled roller-coaster.

"To moderate blood sugar levels it's a good idea to eat smaller meals spread throughout the day, to look at portion size but to still be mindful of your overall calorie intake," Ms Eaton says.

"If you're not reducing portion sizes and making healthy choices when snacking, then you're only going to increase your intake and put on weight, so perhaps this type of food plan is not for you."

Naturopath Marnie Downer says she tells her clients, particularly those who are trying to lose weight, to stick to three smaller meals and two snacks throughout the course of a day.

"A palm-size portion of protein, three handfuls of vegies and preferably low- starch carbs is great and is achievable for most people with minimum planning," Ms Downer says.

"Healthy snacking and regular smaller meals can be beneficial to both the metabolism and blood sugar levels, however it really depends on what you're eating."

She recommends something containing protein for mid- morning and mid-afternoon as it slows the blood sugar spike and sustains you for longer between meals.

"I encourage my clients to take the ferris wheel approach as opposed to the roller coaster," she explains.

"For example if your afternoon snack is a Tim Tam your blood sugar will spike very quickly but drop just as fast.

"However some fruit and nuts will pop you on the ferris wheel and up your energy goes nice and slow to enjoy the view of the top before coming back down again."

Holistic health coach, Kate Barnes, says often the good old- fashioned approach of three nutritious meals a day is quite sufficient for a normal, healthy adult.

"It really depends on the individual, your activity levels and your lifestyle.

"If three meals fits best and works for you, then make those meals count nutritionally, however if you're hungry all the time then five or six smaller nutritious meals and snacks might be the best option for you," she advises.

"What I do is try and encourage and educate people to take responsibility for their food choices and their planning," she says.

"If you plan ahead and have some pantry basics on hand you can create great healthy meals and snacks with just a little effort and planning.

The West Australian

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