In North America, there’s a good chance you eat your biggest meal at dinner. This habit is based on tradition where the family convenes after school and work to enjoy a hearty meal together. Unfortunately, this is not the healthiest way to eat. Here’s why.
Katherine Tallmade, Registered Dietician and author of Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations, comments that “more and more research is confirming the importance of eating lighter at night and heavier during the day — for health, not just weight.”1 She goes on to explain that various studies have shown that even when the same number of calories are consumed, weight loss (or gain) may vary according to the time food is eaten. When more food is eaten during breakfast or lunch rather than at dinner, more weight is lost or a healthy weight is maintained.
Ms. Tallmade’s opinion is congruent with studies being presented by researchers in the field of nutrition as well as weight management/obesity. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition contends that a body at rest overnight doesn’t need as many calories. Therefore, eating a big meal in the evening will result in fat storage. The researchers recommend eating a big breakfast and a medium lunch when a person is most active during the day so calories eaten will be used for energy. They also found that eating a substantial breakfast helped minimize impulsive snacking, helping to sustain a weight reduction program.2
John De Castro, psychology professor and researcher of eating habits, suggests that “intake in the morning of low-density foods is satiating and can reduce the amount ingested over the rest of the day to such an extent that the total amount ingested for the day is less overall. It appears that people who eat at least two thirds of their calories before dinner will consume less calories for the whole day than people who eat the majority of their calories at night.” 3
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- Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco JP, et al. The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;55(3):645-651.
- De Castro JM. The time of day of food intake influences overall intake in humans. J Nutr. 2004;134(1):104-111.