When should we eat?

There are no hard and fast rules about the time at which we should eat or the number of meals we should eat in a day. Most people's eating patterns are influenced by factors such as tradition and culture, financial situation, work pattern, the climate, and the availability of particular foods.

BREAKFAST

In some cultures, breakfast is eaten after a period of work, in others before work begins, and in others not at all. The quantities and types of food eaten as breakfast also vary enormously.

Most evidence indicates that any adverse effects on psychological or physical function due to not having breakfast occurred when the person was used to having breakfast. If, after missing breakfast, a person gets hungry later in the morning, it is likely that they will eat less nutritionally sound foods and this can lead to poor eating habits.

EVENING MEAL

Some people tend to overeat in the evening. To help regulate appetite it is a useful idea to have a variety of interesting, low energy-dense (low kilojoule) snacks available before and after the evening meal to nibble on. For example, apples, celery, Swedish-style rye hard-breads (without high kilojoule toppings such as butter, margarine or cheese). Exercise before or after the evening meal can also help regulate appetite. Large meals in the evening may make it harder for some people to sleep well.

SNACKING

Snacking is not likely to matter unless the items are sticky and therefore likely to cause tooth decay or the items are fatty and likely to cause a prolonged elevation of blood fats (see WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT FATS AND OILS IN FOOD).