3 meals a day or 5 meals a day – does it matter? There are those who ‘just say no’ to snacking and restrict themselves to three meals a day, period. In their view, snacking is simply a bad habit that can pile on the pounds. In the opposite corner are those who say that small, frequent meals will help control hunger, so it’s better to eat five times a day.

Is one strategy better than the other? Research has yet to give us a definitive answer, suggesting that whether you eat three times a day or five, the question of whether there is a health benefit … will ultimately depend on how much energy is consumed. In other words, if it’s weight loss you’re after, the bottom line is keeping your calorie intake in check. Snacking itself isn’t bad, unless it’s pushing your calorie intake past the tipping point.

If you look at what many people consider ‘snack foods’ – greasy, salty, sugary packaged snacks like crisps, biscuits and sweets– it’s easy to see why they’d adopt the ‘no snacking’ approach to weight management.

Of course, there are plenty of healthy foods to snack on, too – which is just one reason to support the small, frequent meal approach. It’s a practical issue – the more often you eat, the more opportunities you have to meet your nutritional needs. Snacks can be used as an opportunity to work in more healthy fruits and vegetables, or maybe some calcium-rich yogurt, or an additional portion of protein.