When Should I Eat My Biggest Meal of the Day?

A Healthier Michigan

| 3 min read

What you eat is directly tied to your health and wellness, but so is the time of day you eat. This is true especially when it comes to timing your largest meal. After you eat, your body needs to digest and make use of the food’s nutritious qualities. How food affects your body can depend on the time of day it’s digested.

Why Does it Matter Which Meal is Biggest?

Digestion can be disrupted by laying or sitting down for a long time soon after eating, which is one reason why eating your largest meal earlier rather than later in the day is recommended, according to a study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
Additionally, your largest meal is often the meal that makes you feel most full and reaps the benefits of the most dopamine. This is especially true if the meal has a healthy serving of protein, according to the same study.

How to Time Your Meals

Since it does matter when you eat your meals, it’s important to be mindful about your eating schedule. Eating a large meal before sitting or lying down interferes with digestion, according to the AJLM study, and eating too large or heavy of a meal mid-day could slow you down or bring that later afternoon slump feeling.
Besides when you eat, portion control, meal components and balancing of nutrients are all important to give thought to when you are meal planning. One of the best ways to avoid eating a large meal at an inopportune time is to plan your meals out ahead of time. Deciding on-the-go what and when to eat is more likely to result in poor food choices or meal timings.

When Should My Biggest Meal be if I am Trying to Lose Weight?

If you are trying to lose weight, what you eat and the amount is important, in addition to the timing. People who eat their largest meal earlier in the day, especially if that is a healthy breakfast, are less likely to snack during the day. It’s also correlated to weight loss according to a 2013 study published by the Obesity Society. In the study, participants eating the same diet, but eating more calories in the morning, saw twice the amount of weight loss as those eating more later in the day. 

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Even if breakfast isn’t your largest meal of the day, it should be one of your meals – within the first two hours after waking up, according to Health magazine. Don’t make a habit of skipping breakfast – this can lead to snacking as mentioned. Just as importantly, eating breakfast regularly was shown in the study published by the Obesity Society to be correlated with lower blood sugar, insulin, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.
If your schedule or tastes prevents a large nutritious meal at breakfast, or soon after you wake, make sure you are still having something in that window of time. Even a small serving or fruit or veggies and a protein can go a long way to stifling cravings and maintaining energy and focus. Having an early lunch as your largest meal is also acceptable, if the meal is nutritious and healthy, and not a heavy meal or too large that it will have a lagging effect on you.
Eating a large meal earlier in the day is also correlated with lower levels of heart disease and diabetes, as well as better and more restful sleep, according to a study published in the Physiology and Behavior journal.

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