Most of us believe that eating 5 to 6 small meals a day is a great way to elevate metabolism and lose weight. However, a lot of people go about it the wrong way and end up packing on more pounds instead. It leaves us questioning how the concept of eating 6 meals a day really works. Does it boost fat loss or does it help with weight gain? Well, let us find out!
Have you thought of giving the 6 meals a day diet plan a try but are unsure of the outcome? Well, if it helps, know that you are not alone. When it comes to eating 6 meals a day, there are a lot of unanswered questions. The primary one is the impact of consuming such meals on the number on the scale. How do you adjust this meal plan to hit either your weight loss or weight gain goals?
In this read we will be looking into eating six meals a day to either lose or gain weight. Let’s dive right in!
What Is A 6 Meals A Day Plan?
As the name suggests, this meal plan involves consuming six meals every day. Some people believe that you can have these meals any time of the day so long as you hit the six meals mark. However, this is not the case.
There is a 6 meals a day schedule you are recommended if you want to reap the benefits of this meal plan. It showcases how your meals are spread out throughout the day. It is divided as follows: breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, and a late-night snack.
Regardless of your fitness goal, the most crucial aspect of this meal plan is eating healthy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a healthy diet as one that meets the following criteria (4):
- Stays within your calorie needs
- Emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free milk products, and whole grains
- Has low traces of trans fats and limited saturated fats, sodium, added sugars, and cholesterol
- Entails a variety of protein food sources, including lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, soy products, and legumes
Eating six mini-meals also comes with its benefits. Medicine Net suggests that such an eating plan may help stabilize your blood sugar levels and improve your appetite control (1). However, you can reap these benefits if you take into account portion control.
Can You Eat 6 Small Meals A Day For Weight Loss?
Yes, you can. Harvard University acknowledges that you can eat frequently and still lose pounds (3). Since this diet plan involves frequent food consumption, it gets the green light to prompt weight loss.
However, you have to remember the weight loss specifics. They detail that you need to consume fewer calories than your body is burning if you want to shed pounds. To lose one pound of body fat (3, 500 calories) in a week, you will need a deficit of 500 calories daily (7). So, you must consider creating a calorie deficit if you want these six small meals to work in your favor.
How To Eat 6 Small Meals A Day For Weight Loss?
It should be noted that there are specific aspects you have to take into account if you are using this meal plan for weight loss. They are as follows:
- Calorie Intake. As discussed above, you must create and maintain a calorie deficit if you want to shed pounds.
- Skipping Meals. You should not skip any meal if you are using this meal plan for weight loss. Skipping meals only increases your craving for unhealthy snacks, which increases your calorie intake (2).
- Portion Size. You need to take control of the amount of food you consume as it contains calories. Remember that your goal is maintaining a calorie deficit to prompt weight loss.
Likewise, you also need to pay attention to the foods you add to this diet plan. Since your goal is shedding pounds, you have to add healthy weight loss foods. It is best if you sit down with your nutritionist to determine these foods. On most occasions, these healthcare providers will recommend the following foods:
- Cruciferous Vegetables. Most of these vegetables have low calories and have high fiber content. Fiber is essential in weight loss as it increases satiety levels and minimizes overeating. Such vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels, and cauliflower (13).
- Lean Proteins. These protein food sources help tame your hunger, which could help you shed pounds (5). Protein also helps build muscle which burns more calories at rest than adipose (fat) tissue. Consider lean proteins, such as lean lamb, pork, or beef.
- Pulses. Pulses refer to a group of foods, including beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. They are recommended for weight loss because they increase satiety and have high fiber and protein content (13).
- Nuts. Nuts contain heart-healthy fats, fiber, protein, and other nutrients. Their high protein and fiber content increase their influence on weight control. However, it would help if you consumed them in moderation as they rank among energy-dense foods (13).
- Whole grains. Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, barley, millet, and buckwheat rank among the most recommended weight loss foods.
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6 Meals A Day Menu For Weight Loss
You can creatively incorporate the listed weight loss foods above to develop a nutrient-dense weight loss plan. Here is a sample of a meal plan detailing what to consume in one day and throughout these six meals (12):
- Breakfast: Buckwheat pancakes with raspberries and Greek yogurt
- Mid-morning snack: Whole grain rice cake with nut butter
- Lunch: Chicken salad with corn and lettuce
- Mid-afternoon snack: Boiled egg with pita slices
- Dinner: Roasted Mediterranean vegetables, puy lentils, and tahini dressing
- Late-night snack: Apple slices and peanut butter
Eating 6 Meals A Day For Weight Gain
Many diabetic individuals are advised to eat small and frequent meals, so they may follow the 6 meals a day diet plan. Most of them start this eating plan with the assumption that they will lose weight. However, down the line, they sometimes end up gaining weight instead.
Due to this, most people have questioned the effect of eating six meals a day on weight gain. According to Medical News Today, such individuals can add weight even if this is not their goal (8).
For some insulin-dependent diabetics, eating more frequently may lead to higher insulin requirements and doses, which can lead to weight gain (8). One study has even found that diabetic patients assigned to eat 3 times per day lost weight and had better blood sugar control than those assigned to eat 6 times per day (9).
Nonetheless, weight gain can also happen to individuals without diabetes but with less regard for their daily calorie intake. Consuming more calories than your body burns lead to a calorie surplus, which can cause weight gain.
How To Eat 6 Small Meals A Day For Weight Gain?
If you want to add weight safely and quickly using this diet plan, then consider doing the following:
- Eating Frequently. Medical News Today suggests that eating multiple meals in a day can help increase your calorie intake, causing weight gain (11). The six meals a day diet plan requires that you eat frequently and throughout the day. So, make sure that you do not skip any meal whatsoever. Plan ahead in case you have a busy day to avoid skipping your meals.
- Drinking Your Calories. Opt for liquid calories from beverages such as smoothies, milk, or juices. They will give you extra calories and nutrition than drinks such as tea, coffee, or sodas (10).
- Eating Healthy Meals. Although the six meals a day diet plan incorporates healthy foods, you may sometimes give in to unhealthy foods. It mainly happens when you have not planned for your meals or are dining out. In this case, you end up opting for junk or processed foods.
Such foods contain empty calories, added sugars, high sodium content, and unhealthy fats (10). They will make you gain weight but in an unhealthy manner. Consider other healthy foods options like beans and dairy that are both nutrient-rich and energy-dense. These can help you add weight safely and healthily.
- Taking Soups. Opt for soups with bacon bits, powdered milk, cheese, sour cream, or yogurt. They provide extra calories as well as enhance the flavor of your soups (10).
- Pumping Up Your Salads. You can always pump up your salads despite preparing them with low-calorie ingredients. To do this, you will need to use healthy fats or fruits to dress your salads. You can consider using olive oil, avocado oil or avocadoes, seeds, nuts, cheese, pears, berries, or apples (10).
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Best Foods To Add To A 6 Meals A Day Plan For Weight Gain
If your doctor recommends this diet plan to help you add weight, then consider consuming the following foods:
- Milk and Milk Products. Milk contains carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals like calcium, and proteins. It is an excellent recommendation for anyone looking to add weight. Even so, you will have to add it to your diet throughout the day (6).
- Rice. One cup of rice has 2000 calories and high carb content (6). These carbs contribute to weight gain. Brown rice is the whole grain version that retains all the fiber, vitamins and minerals which are stripped from white rice during processing.
- Red Meat. Medical News Today states that red meat contains fat and protein, both of which promote weight gain (6). The site also acknowledges that red meat contains nutrients like creatine and leucine, which boost muscle mass.
- Whole Grain Bread. These particular breads contain complex carbohydrates that are known to cause weight gain. Complex carbs have high fiber and starch content (14).
- Starchy Carbohydrates. You can also add starchy carbs to your diet plan to add pounds or boost muscle growth. These foods add bulk to your meals, further increasing your calorie intake (6). Some of the foods rich in these starchy carbs include corn, potatoes, quinoa, sweet potatoes, winter root vegetables, and squash (6).
- Dried Fruits. Dried fruits contain more calories and nutrients. A quarter cup of dried cranberries, for example, contains an estimated 130 calories (6).
- Healthy Fats and Oils. Oils, specifically those attained from avocados and olives, can contribute to extra calories. Similarly, they can also increase your intake of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. The influence of the two may lead to weight gain.
- Whole Grain Cereals. There are a variety of whole-grain cereals. Some are fortified with minerals and vitamins, while others have high added sugars and few complex carbs. Opt for those with whole grains and nuts if you want to add some weight. They have healthy carb and calorie levels that may promote weight gain (6).
- Dark Chocolate. Dark chocolate has high fat and calorie content. For extra antioxidant content, you will have to pick one with a cacao content of at least 70 % (6).
The Bottom Line
The 6 meals a day plan can either promote weight loss or weight gain. It all comes down to how you have crafted your meals, portion sizes, and obedience to your calorie intake. Adding weight loss foods, adhering to small portions, and maintaining a calorie deficit will influence weight loss. On the flip side, adding high-calorie foods and increasing your daily calorie intake will lead to weight gain. Talk to a nutritionist before using this meal plan for weight gain or loss.
If you have decided to lose weight as fast as possible, make sure you dive into both dieting and regular workout. Consider trying this 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Best Diet Plan: 6 Mini Meals or 3 Squares a Day? (2021, medicinenet.com)
- Diet myths and facts (2020, medlineplus.gov)
- Eating Frequency and Weight Loss (2015, health.harvard.edu)
- Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight (2021, cdc.gov)
- High-Protein Diet for Weight Loss (2020, webmd.com)
- How do you gain weight quickly and safely? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How to safely and effectively create a calorie deficit for weight loss (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- New diet that matches biological clock may be better for diabetes (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Reduction in Glycated Hemoglobin and Daily Insulin Dose Alongside Circadian Clock Upregulation in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Consuming a Three-Meal Diet: A Randomized Clinical Trial (2019, diabetesjournals.org)
- Safe Ways to Gain Weight (2020, webmd.com)
- Tips for gaining weight safely and things to avoid (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Weight loss meal plans (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What are the best foods for weight loss? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What you need to know about carbs (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)