Six meals a day vs. three most certainly does help you lose weight, by keeping your insulin level from peaking and staying at a level rate. It also keeps you from being hungry...
Not to confuse you more, but both philosophies could be considered correct. We do have to expend more calories, or energy, than we consume in order to lose weight. But the overall quality of our diet (variety of food, including plenty of fruits, vegies, and whole grains) is also very important.
We need to be satisfied with what we're eating. When fewer calories are taken in, each food really counts. The foods we choose should offer nutrients full of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial substances. Good health is not just about the number on the scale, but more about eating a varied diet. So, include carbohydrates, proteins, some fat, and fiber, along with those vitamins and minerals, rather than eating only one nutrient. Don't forget phytochemicals (plant chemicals found in tomatoes, garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, apricots, citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, and other fruits and vegetables), too. For more information about what foods provide which nutrients, read Food pyramid — How much is a serving? and search Alice's Fitness and Nutrition archive.
Here's a list of specific functions of nutrients:
By taking in most calories from one source, the body won't operate efficiently because there will be deficiencies in other areas. Damage from insufficient nutrient intake can occur long before effects are felt. The following list offers some health problems that can result from specific nutrient restricted diets:
Low Carbohydrate Diets
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Kidney problems
- Calcium depletion
Low Protein Diets
- Frequent colds / low immunity
- Hair loss / nail thinning
Very Low-fat Diets
- Vision Problems
- Cold Intolerance
- Bone loss
- Hemorrhage from impaired blood clotting
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
So, what do you need to know when planning what to eat for weight loss and weight management? In general, lower fat diets are recommended because, if properly planned, they are healthier and more fulfilling. With high fat diets, calories add up quickly because fat provides nine calories per gram (protein and carbohydrate each supply four calories per gram). You may crowd out important nutrients and not be totally satisfied on a high fat diet. In addition, high fat diets have been connected to the development of heart disease, some cancers, and gall bladder disease, among other ills.
By replacing foods high in fat with foods low in fat, but higher in protein or carbohydrates, the number of calories are automatically cut down (if you don't eat a greater quantity). Substituting a high fat food with a high fiber food will help keep folks feeling full and content with fewer calories as well. Many carbohydrate-rich foods are also high in fiber. Since humans can't digest fiber, it adds bulk and is filling and satisfying, which are among its healthy benefits.
As you can see, it does matter where the nutrients come from. And, balance is key. If your calories are mostly from fat, you may end up taking in too many calories, possibly leading to weight gain. On the other hand, if you're limiting calories to lose weight while on a high fat diet, you probably won't be satisfied because you'll be eating a small amount of food. In the long run, sticking with this eating plan is not healthy because it's nutritionally limited. Alice recommends a varied diet, inclusive of many foods (and nutrients). You may also find it helpful to meet with a registered dietitian to discuss your weight loss goals and your particular eating preferences to help you come up with an eating plan that suits your needs. You'll have a better chance of being happy with your eating, managing your weight more easily, and being healthy to boot!
As a general rule, fasting all day on a regular basis is not a good idea, even if you "make up" the skipped calories at night. Although our bodies are remarkable in their ability to adapt to over and under eating at times, they need energy throughout the day to perform at an optimal level.
Paying attention to hunger signals (they are there for a reason!) and being aware of how much food you need to maintain physical and mental energy is healthy. By fasting all day you deny your body nutrients and energy which may lead to headaches, mood swings, feeling tired and dizzy, and even fainting. Your metabolism may also slow down and you could lose muscle mass. Fasting also may make you more likely to binge in the evenings, and you may be more likely to choose unhealthy foods.
You may want to ask yourself why you are skipping meals during the day. Observing religious holidays or special occasions is one reason many people fast from time to time. For most people, our bodies can adapt and function through the occasional fast, whether it is a sun-up to sun-down fast, or extends for a full day (children and people with certain medical conditions may need to forgo even occasional fasting; consult your health care provider if you are uncertain).
If you fast frequently you may want to consider some of your motivations. Are you trying to lose weight? Do you not feel hungry during the day? Are you too busy to eat? If you are trying to lose weight, eating several small meals throughout the day might be a better option. This will provide you with a more constant and consistent source of energy in a form that makes it easier for your body to metabolize and burn calories. Skipping meals is not a healthy approach to weight loss since fasting slows down metabolism and makes people more likely to overeat later. See Will skipping breakfast and lunch lead to weight loss? and Importance of eating breakfast for more information on skipping meals.
You mention eating "whatever you want" at night. Could this be because you feel guilty about eating certain kinds of foods, or about the amount of food you eat? These concerns are issues to think about before you can adopt a more healthful eating plan and positive attitudes toward eating. They may also be a sign of disordered eating, or other issues such as depression. If you're experiencing guilt or are anxious about food, contact a mental health professional who can help you get to the bottom of these feelings and behaviors. Columbia students should contact Counseling and Psychological Services at x4-2878.
If your question is motivated by the desire to lose or manage your weight, consider making an appointment with a nutritionist who can help you figure out a meal plan that works for you and fits your lifestyle. If you are a Columbia student, you can make an appointment with a nutritionist through Open Communicator or by calling x4-2284. Non-Columbia students may want to start with a primary care provider who can help them find a nutritionist.
Although it's not always easy to change your eating habits, taking care of your health is worth it in the long run.
Dear Confused and College Bound,
You are not alone with your concerns. Going to college is a big step in a person's life involving major changes. You and those around you may be living on your own for the first time, making decisions on a buffet of issues, including what to eat.
Eating healthy at college is possible. Many college dining services are offering more healthy choices and are often quite receptive to students' concerns and dietary preferences. But, this is only part of the challenge. In an environment where time, friends, and finances may combine in new ways, having options available only solves some of the puzzle. It's important to experiment with what works best for you. For example, that traditional idea of three square meals a day has been updated with a more contemporary concept of eating five smaller meals spread throughout the day. Steer clear of diets or fads, especially those that drastically limit a particular nutrient. Remember, balance, moderation, and variety win out over trendy and extreme. For some practical tips, navigate through the many options on Choosemyplate.gov. Columbia students can also take advantage of the resources from the Get Balanced initiative. Plan ahead when possible so you don't have to rely on vending machines when you're hungry; think of ways to incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on a daily basis. Eating more of these will fill you up and possibly even enhance your already stellar brain power.
Making time for physical activity is important, too. Most college fitness centers have a variety of movement classes and options. When the weather is right, grab a friend and walk, run, bike, or blade outdoors. If you are Columbia affiliated, you can connect with the CU Move initiative. CU Move encourages members of the Columbia community to engage in active lives that include regular physical activity. The program provides participants with motivation, incentives to be active throughout the year, and event calendars with access to plenty of free and low-cost physical activity options on campus and around NYC.
Now, to address the second part of your question: an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, is less about food, eating, and body weight. It has more to do with mental health, emotional, physical, socio-cultural, and family issues. If this is a particular concern of yours, you might want to take a look at Eating disorders vs. normal eating. Additionally, if you are a Columbia student, you can make an appointment with a health care provider or a registered dietitian to discuss your concerns by contacting Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC).
Give yourself some time to adjust to a new environment and ask for help when you need it. Everything in moderation, even moderation.
Enjoy your time at college,
Eating fruits and vegetables is an essential part of maintaining good health. In 2011, the USDA launched its most recent food guide called Choose My Plate. Most health professionals and health promotion organizations, including the USDA, recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Or, in the case of the Choose My Plate campaign, make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
Since eating vegetables is not very appealing to you, let's start by discussing ways to incorporate some essential vitamins and minerals into your diet via fruit. Look to a wide variety of fruits to take in more vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which are plant substances that may ward off heart disease and certain forms of cancer. For example, a fruit salad composed of oranges, assorted berries, grapes, kiwi, bananas, apples, and peaches with fresh lime juice squeezed over it can be enjoyed as a delicious part of any meal or on its own as a snack. A piece of fruit, such as an apple or a pear, is also an excellent dessert and can be paired with protein, such as nut butter or cheese, to make a well balanced snack.
Now let's move to the incorporation of vegetables in a positive way. Vegetables can taste bitter, particularly when eaten raw. A good place to begin may be experimenting with roasting a few different vegetables to see what you may like. Roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness via a process called caramelization, which reveals the sugars in vegetables, causing them to taste sweeter. This works particularly well with root vegetables, such as onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and carrots. To roast vegetables, simply cut them into one-inch squares, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, place on a baking sheet, and put in an oven at 450 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, tossing and turning throughout cooking. You will know they are done when they are golden brown, slightly crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. Broccoli and cauliflower are also delicious when roasted. Feel free to experiment by adding grated parmesan or other cheeses, herbs, and spices to the vegetables after roasting. You can also look to "sweeter" vegetables, such as corn, peas, tomatoes, and carrots and incorporate them into pasta or rice dishes or put them together to make a salad. The Get Balanced! nutrition initiative offers some recipes to get you started, such as the Cilantro Corn Tomato Salad.
It is also possible to disguise vegetables in your food, similar to the way some parents do when their children don't eat their veggies. This is typically done using vegetable purees, which can be made at home simply by microwaving a vegetable and then pureeing it, or can be found in the freezer section (most often found are pureed sweet potatoes or squash) or as jars of baby food in the children's section of your grocery store. Purees can be added to stew, soup, pasta sauce, baked goods, etc.; the options are endless. There are several good cookbooks available that offer recipes that incorporate vegetable purees. You can also sneak in an extra veggie by making fruit smoothies with spinach added in — all you'll taste is the fruit!
In addition to purees, you can also incorporate vegetables into other foods. Examples include:
It's difficult to "force" yourself into liking a specific food, especially if you are turned off by the taste. Luckily, you can choose from a variety of vegetable options and cooking methods. Keep an open mind (and mouth), and perhaps you will come to enjoy some of these foods!
For more tips about healthy eating, fruits, and vegetables, check out the Optimal Nutrition section of the Go Ask Alice! archive, learn more about the tools from Columbia's Get Balanced initiative, or visit Choosemyplate.gov.
If you are what you eat, being healthy and time efficient sound like great qualities to have! Whether your motivations include saving time, saving money, improving your nutrition, maintaining or losing weight, or fostering your creative, culinary skills, preparing your own lunch is a grand idea! Packing your own lunch helps tailor to your individual needs, nutritionally and conveniently to energize you through your busy days at school and beyond. With pending readings and meetings, preparing the proper, nutritious foods may seem like a challenge, but give these nutritious, yet easy and balanced tips below a try.
First, a little review of the food groups may serve up some hot and cool lunch options. Main food groups include:
Suggestions for compiling easy and healthy lunches include:
For more information about balancing a healthy lunch, check out My Pyramid for more tips and a personalized eating plan. If you're a student at Columbia, you may also consult with a nutritionist through Primary Care Medical Services for further nutritional guidance. Eating better may help fuel your mind and body, and you may complement your diet with physical fitness. If you're pressed for time, try reading No time for working out.
When you're having lunch, consider asking your peers of their strategies for quick and healthy lunches and discussing why it's important for you and your peers to eat healthy. These make for nutritious conversations and fruitful times with others! Bagged lunches may help fuel your physical and social health!
Rather than prescribing you a "model's diet," as there are probably as many of them as there are models (both healthy and unhealthy), a better suggestion would be to follow the guidelines for a model diet — that is, start by resisting the urge to compare yourself to other models. Focusing on what's healthy for you is the healthiest runway to strut on.
You have already taken a step in the right direction by taking good care of yourself and your health:
Exercising regularly is fantastic for health and wellness. For a well-rounded exercise plan, be sure to include both cardio and weight training workouts. Current recommendations for a healthy dose of exercise for adults include 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week, plus muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
Meeting with a nutritionist or dietician can help you figure out a specific eating plan tailored for your energy and nutritional needs. According to the USDA’s 2011 MyPlate Plan, a healthy diet for a typical woman aged 19-30 includes 6 ounces of grains (with 3 ounces coming from whole grains), 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy products, 5 1/2 ounces of protein (lean meats and beans) and up to 6 teaspoons from the oil group. Recommendations for a typical man aged 19-30 includes 8 ounces of grains, with at least 4 ounces coming from whole grains, 3 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy products, 6 1/2 ounces of protein (lean meats and beans) and up to 7 teaspoons of foods from the oil group. With a balanced diet, men and women can eat still eat sweets and treats in moderation and maintain a healthy diet.
Getting your beauty sleep is important — both on and off the runway! While six solid hours can be enough for some people, others, especially people in their late teens and early 20s, need as many as nine or ten to be completely rested and alert. For sleep tips, you can check out the A!Sleep Site.
Only your dietician can tell you how often you should meet with her/him in a given period of time. In addition, you might also meet with a health care provider at your university's health service for a physical or check-ups to make sure that your body stays healthy while you continue with your eating, exercise, and would-be modeling plans. Columbia students can make an appointment to discuss their nutritional concerns online through Open Communicator, or by calling x4-2284.
Good luck with your modeling debut. Following the above tips can help you make a lasting impression along your path to becoming a model of good health!
A busy lifestyle and a rigorous semester may not always allow us to have fresh vegetables on hand. But, there are benefits and drawbacks of fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables. For starters, no matter which way you store it, a vegetable is always going to contain carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other plant chemicals, known as "phytochemicals," all of which are good for us no matter what. You’ll be happy to know that none of these nutrients are completely lost from processing.
While most people feel that fresh veggies are optimal, they may lose nutrients before they even get into your stomach. Raw vegetables lose some vitamins just by sitting around. It could take up to two weeks from the time they've been picked until they reach your plate. By this time, 10 to 50 percent of the less stable nutrients may have disappeared. Still, raw, lightly prepared, or minimally processed veggies (and fruits) often have a higher nutrient value than well-cooked ones. To help preserve the nutrient content of veggies (and fruits) during cooking or other preparation:
Frozen and canned vegetables are often processed shortly after they are picked, so that nutrient losses would not occur during shipping, on the grocer's shelf, or in your home. Frozen vegetables actually retain a high proportion of their original nutrients. Sometimes, though, they are blanched (dipped in hot water), which preserves color and texture, but may compromise some vitamins. In order to avoid extra calories, salt, and/or fat, choose frozen vegetables without added sauces or cheese. Sodium is often added to canned products. A portion of this may be rinsed off with water, or you can choose the low sodium or no sodium that are often available (check the label!).
Whether fresh, frozen, or canned fits into your lifestyle, select any type that you'll enjoy eating. The number of servings needed in a day varies depending on your age and other factors, however, adults generally need about 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit each day. Read Food Guidelines — How much is a serving? in the Go Ask Alice! Nutrition & Physical Activity archive for specific veggie and fruit serving size information. You can also check out Choosemyplate.gov for personalized recommendations.
As a side note, you may think that nutritional supplements are a quick and easy way of getting the nutrients you need in case you don't follow a healthy eating plan. However, a well-balanced diet rich in veggies and fruits can offer you much, much more than these supplements ever could, such as phytochemicals, which could protect against cancer, heart disease, other illnesses, and who knows what else? Beneficial substances such as these are found in vegetables no matter what form they are in.
A calorie is the standard unit for measuring energy released from energy-yielding nutrients, such as fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Fat is an essential nutrient that helps the body transport and absorb fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., A, D, E, and K), among other functions. Whereas proteins and carbohydrates have only four calories of energy per gram, fat has nine. Food labels are federally standardized to help make it easier for the consumer to know what's in a particular food. You can calculate the percentage of calories from fat by looking at the column marked "Percent Daily Value" for total fat and simply add up these percentages. It's recommended that fat make up no more than 30 percent of your daily diet (meaning less than or equal to 30 percent of total calories a day from fat).
Although it is important to watch both calories and fat grams, it's best to focus on the total number of calories consumed, which often seems to be forgotten. With the introduction of low-fat and fat-free versions of many common foods, you'd expect people to lose weight. Instead, many are either staying at the same weight or even gaining weight. Sometimes you can eat more of these foods than their full-fat versions for the same number of calories. However, sometimes low-fat foods contain more sugar than their full-fat cousins, and hence as many calories per serving. Ultimately, if you eat more calories than your body expends, regardless of whether these calories come from fat, protein, or carbohydrates, you will gain weight. Unused energy is converted and stored as excess body fat.
The amount of calories a person needs is based on body weight, age, gender and physical activity level. Generally, 1200 to 1400 calories per day is considered low, and anything above 2400 is considered too much. To find out how many calories you should be getting a day, check out the MyPlate website. This USDA-sponsored site will ask you to input your age, gender, weight, height and physical activity level in order to determine what caloric intake will be right for you. You can also check out Ideal Caloric Intake? in the Go Ask Alice! archives for more information on calorie counting.
What and when to eat is quite the interesting question. Food combining — not eating carbohydrates and proteins in the same meal — is a controversial, though not recent, practice. Some people swear by it, and others find it frustrating and ineffective.
The digestive tract's made to handle a variety of nutrients (including carbohydrates and proteins) at the same time. There's no clear evidence that food is digested better when carbohydrates and proteins are presented separately. Many foods naturally contain both carbohydrates and proteins. For example, spaghetti, commonly dubbed as a "carb," is about 14 percent protein in its total calories. Separating all carbohydrates and proteins may not be fully possible. Sometimes not drinking water during meals is recommended in the food combining diet. Physiologically, drinking beverages at meals is fine; in fact, the body naturally secretes water into the digestive tract after food is consumed to help break down both carbohydrates and proteins.
Some people believe that a food combining approach is effective for health maintenance and/or weight loss. This is often not because of the effect of eating proteins and carbohydrates separately, but because their food choices improve when they begin the plan. If someone changes from eating a diet of highly refined foods that are high in fat and calories to eating the variety of whole, minimally processed, basic foods that are recommended in a food combining diet, they may feel better and lose weight by virtue of the change in the quality of food. Correlation of weight and health changes doesn't mean causation. This may be a basic situation of not what you eat and when, but one of eating healthier foods and consuming fewer calories.
The food combining diet has no major detriment — if it works for you, use it. Note that you could get into nutritional trouble by restricting your eating to only carbohydrates (grains, breads, pasta, cereal, etc.) or only proteins (beans, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and poultry). It's important to eat both, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables, to have a healthy, balanced eating plan.
If you're at Columbia and would like to talk more about what eating approach might work best for you, consider making an appointment with a Nutritionist at Primary Care Medical Services. You can make an appointment online via Open Communicator or by calling x4-2284. If you're not a Columbia student, ask your primary care provider for a referral.
Whether you wish to incorporate the food combining diet or not, keep in mind the body's need of a balanced source of nutrition to efficiently fuel your lifestyle. Also, consider complementing a level of physical activity that works for you to effectively maintain general health and for potential weight loss.
Wishing you many happy and healthy meals,
Many of the articles on "nutrition" in the general media suggest the "right" times to eat and the number of meals to eat to prevent weight gain. It is common to hear that eating late at night causes excess fat to be produced. This is not accurate — it is overeating at any time, not simply eating at night, that causes someone to gain weight, particularly if they're not exercising or expending enough energy during the day. These articles also sometimes suggest that manipulating the number of meals per day could increase your metabolism and help you lose weight. Realistically, there is no magic number of times you should eat, nor are there specific types of foods you should eat or a particular time of day to eat to lose weight.
The bottom line is: eat when you're hungry and avoid overeating. The number of meals you have per day and when should depend upon your schedule and the total number of calories you want to take in. If you lead a typical student lifestyle, three meals a day may not work best for you. A classic example: let's say you grab a bagel at about 7 A.M. You may not have lunch until 2 P.M. and dinner until 8 P.M. This is a long time between meals. Chances are that you would be very hungry before both lunch and dinner. Being overly hungry, or "starving!" as some might say, could easily lead you to overeat at both meals. Many of us not only overeat when we are too hungry, but we also end up eating too fast, which is bad for our digestion. For this reason, several small meals may help you control portion size overall.
Carrying healthy snacks with you during the day is a great way to avoid overeating at meals. Take a bag of carrot sticks, pieces of fruit, nuts and raisins, half a sandwich, or a granola bar with you during your next long day on campus. You'll find that when you don't deny yourself food when you're hungry, you'll be much more in control of eating the amounts that are right for you. Remember, a healthy diet includes moderation, variety, and some tasty foods, too. Columbia students who want more help with meal planningcan make an appointment with a nutritionist by calling x4-2284 or through Open Communicator.
You can certainly experiment with the number and timing of your meals to see what keeps you satisfied and energized. If you enjoy having several smaller meals, there is no reason to eat three "square" meals each day, as long as you are getting a balanced mix of fruits, vegies, whole grains, and lean protein. Likewise, if eating three meals a day is working well for you, there's no need to buy into the fad of several small meals. Wishing you enjoyment in your eating,
Six meals a day vs. three most certainly does help you lose weight, by keeping your insulin level from peaking and staying at a level rate. It also keeps you from being hungry...
Six meals a day vs. three most certainly does help you lose weight, by keeping your insulin level from peaking and staying at a level rate. It also keeps you from being hungry and from overeating at one specific meal. You also need exercise, preferably in the morning, which does boost metabolism and burns fat. Eating a balanced diet of protien and healthy carbs together for your meals also speeds metabolism and helps keep you more full and satisfied. Ask any bodybuilder or fitness expert how many meals they eat a day (this includes protien shakes/meal supplement shakes) and they will all say they eat six meals a day. I've lost 50 lbs. by changing my lifestyle that way and I love it.
Go Ask Alice! is not an emergency or instant response service. If you are in an urgent situation, please visit our Emergency page to view a list of 24 hour support services and hotlines.
All materials on this website are copyrighted. Copyright 2005-2014 by The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. All rights reserved.