British Nutrition Foundation senior nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam looks at the science-backed best times to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, for better health and weight management.
Q Are there optimal times of day to eat, and how long should I leave between meals and snacks?
A There isn’t a definitive answer to your question, as an eating time that suits one person may not suit another. You really need to find what works for you.
There’s good evidence that eating breakfast can make a positive contribution to nutrient intakes and may help with weight control, so never skip it. There isn’t a specific time that breakfast should be eaten, but try not to leave it too long after waking – your body has been fasting overnight and not replenishing its energy stores can leave you feeling tired, hungry and unwell.
When it comes to planning dinner, it’s a good idea not to eat too close to bedtime as a full stomach may disrupt your sleep. But between these times you need to decide the best eating pattern for your lifestyle.
It’s important to be aware of your internal appetite signals. Eating for the sake of it can put you at risk of consuming more energy than you need and could make it difficult to manage your weight, so try to wait until you’re hungry.
Article sources and references
- Priya R Deshmukh-Taskar , et al. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumption with nutrient intake and weight status in children and adolescents: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006. J Am Diet Assoc . 2010 Jun;110(6):869-78. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.023.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20497776/
- Mai Matsumoto , et al. Breakfast skipping is related to inadequacy of vitamin and mineral intakes among Japanese female junior high school students: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Nutritional Science, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/jns.2019.44Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 February 2020https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-nutritional-science/article/breakfast-skipping-is-related-to-inadequacy-of-vitamin-and-mineral-intakes-among-japanese-female-junior-high-school-students-a-crosssectional-study/7C6FCE88B6E3C401C1654A9C69328019
- Andrew W McHill, et al. Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body fat. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 106, Issue 5, November 2017, Pages 1213–1219, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.117.161588https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/106/5/1213/4822338?sid=0b186230-db4a-42ea-a0f8-a5efd1945432